The United States has formally notified the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, triggering expressions of concern and regret from other major powers on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change, with September the fourth month in a row with near- or record-breaking temperatures.
Washington presented its withdrawal letter to the UN on the first possible date under the accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, making the world’s largest economy the sole outlier from the agreement.
The US will be officially out on November 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election in which Trump is seeking a second term on appeals to the white working class.
Announcing the move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump’s rationale in 2017 that the accord would disadvantage US businesses.
“It was America that would suffer the straitjacket,” Pompeo told the Fox Business network. “It would be quintessentially unfair to the American people and to the American workers.”
Pompeo said in a statement that the United States would advocate a “realistic and pragmatic model” that included renewable energy but preserved a role for fossil fuels.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade Trump to stay in the accord named for his nation’s capital, lamented the decision.
“We regret this and it makes the Franco-Chinese partnership on climate and biodiversity even more necessary,” the French presidency said as Macron visited China, the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.
Beijing also expressed “regret” over Washington’s decision ahead of the planned signing Wednesday of a joint document on climate by President Xi Jinping and Macron.
“We hope the US can take more responsibility, and do more to contribute a driving force to the multilateral cooperation process, instead of adding negative energy,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Russia warned that the US withdrawal seriously undermined the Paris accord.
“Without the largest economy in the world, it’s very, very hard to talk about any kind of climate agreement,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The United States, the number-two emitter, is still planning to attend this month’s COP climate negotiations in Spain, according to a State Department official.