WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will leave the Paris climate accord, and instead attempt to renegotiate its involvement.
“The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or, really, an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers,” Trump said during a speech in the White House’s Rose Garden.
The agreement, which was formally signed by the U.S. in late 2016, pledges to keep global temperatures at 35.6 F above pre-industrial levels and eventually aims to keep them below 34.7 F. By not signing the agreement, the U.S. joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries who oppose the treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention.
President Barack Obama initially described the accord as the “single-best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet in a way that makes it very difficult for us to deal with all the other challenges that we may face.”
While 194 nations in addition to the U.S. had signed onto the accord, Trump cast it as particularly detrimental to the American economy, and repeatedly cast his decision as part of the “America first” theme of his campaign and presidency.
“I was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said.
He pledged to abandon the accord during the presidential campaign, but had not confirmed that he would be following through until Thursday.
On Wednesday night, Trump teased his pending announcement, adding a level of drama to the revelation.
The decision to leave was not universally embraced within the administration.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been an advocate for staying in while Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had pushed for pulling out.
In addition, the White House’s brain trust was split on the issue, with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, reportedly pressing the president to stay in and White House adviser Steven Bannon urging Trump to leave.
In anticipation of the announcement, the European Union and China both reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement.
Within the U.S., environmentalists and critics of the president were quick to condemn the withdrawal.
Former Vice President Al Gore warned that the decision “undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time” and that ultimately American citizens must now pick up the slack.
“If President Trump won’t lead, the American people will,” Gore said. “Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge.”
Former President Barack Obama, who oversaw U.S. entry into the accord, issued a statement countering Trump’s claim that the agreement would harm the U.S. economy, arguing that leaving will instead pose a greater threat.
“Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale,” Obama said. “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack.”
Tech giant Elon Musk announced following Trump’s remarks that he would be leaving advisory councils he served on within the administration.
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Among Republican lawmakers, Trump was largely applauded for fulfilling his campaign promises and protecting American jobs.
“By withdrawing from this unattainable mandate, President Trump has reiterated his commitment to protecting middle class families across the country and workers throughout coal country from higher energy prices and potential job loss” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) called the Paris climate agreement “a raw deal for America.”
“Signed by President Obama without Senate ratification, it would have driven up the cost of energy, hitting middle-class and low-income Americans the hardest,” Ryan said in a statement. “In order to unleash the power of the American economy, our government must encourage production of American energy. I commend President Trump for fulfilling his commitment to the American people and withdrawing from this bad deal.”
In a background briefing following Trump’s speech, a White House official said the administration will comply with the requirements for withdrawal within the accord, meaning that the formal notification that the U.S. will exit can not be made for at least three years.