Trump announces US withdrawal from Paris climate accord

US President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States would pull out of the Paris climate accord, a UN agreement signed by 195 countries at the COP21 climate conference in Paris in December, 2015.

Screen grab

As of today, the US "will cease all implementation" of the accord, Trump said, adding that he will consider rejoining the deal if it is renegotiated to be more beneficial to the US economy.

He suggested that the Paris deal was "unfair" to US workers and taxpayers, and that other nations – notably China and India – stood to benefit more under its current terms.

"This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries obtaining a financial advantage over the United States," Trump said.

"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh – not Paris," he added.

The United States becomes only the third country, along with Nicaragua and Syria, to oppose the Paris Agreement, which is the world's first legally binding climate deal. It came into force last year and so far has been ratified by 147 countries, representing more than 82 percent of global emissions.

The United States had committed to lowering its fossil fuel emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by a 2025 deadline. In signing the deal, wealthy nations also pledged to help pay for developing countries to transition to cleaner energy sources and to deal with the effects of climate change.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well as the UN chief had hoped to pressure Trump into respecting the US pledge to curb its carbon emissions.

"We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won't be," Trump said Thursday.

"The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance," Trump added.

No renegotiation

In a rare joint statement, continental Europe's three biggest economies - Germany, France and Italy - said they were "firmly convinced that the agreement cannot be renegotiated," immediately nixing any possibility of a new deal more favourable to the US being struck.

French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated that sentiment, saying other nations "will not in any way renegotiate an agreement that is less ambitious" than the present one.

Speaking in a televised address to the nation, the recently elected French leader was forthright in his criticism of Trump's decision, saying he had "committed an error for the interests of his country and a mistake for the future of our planet".

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau said they had called Trump to express their disappointment with the decision.

"While the US decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies," Trudeau said in a statement.

>> Read more: Why a 2°C target, and will we reach it?

Several US cities and states have said they plan to stick to the terms of the agreement despite the federal government's decision to withdraw. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said Wednesday that he planned to sign an executive order pledging the city’s continued commitment to the deal. “It’s a sad state of affairs when localities have to do what the federal government should be doing,” he said. 

And despite the honourable mention of his city in Trump's speech, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto quickly reaffirmed his personal commitment to the climate accord.

"As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future," he tweeted.

'Galvanised not weakened'

Others also responded to the news of the US pullout by vowing to uphold the agreement.

As Trump was still making his announcement in the White House Rose Garden, EU climate and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete tweeted that Trump’s decision to withdraw has “galvanised us rather than weakened us”.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called for the Eiffel Tower to be illuminated in green starting at 10pm local time to show France's continuing support for the deal. In a contribution to Newsweek, she said Trump was making a "dramatic and unpopular mistake" in withdrawing.

Nevertheless, the "great cities of the world" will remain "committed to doing what needs to be done" to meet the terms of the accord, Hidalgo wrote.

The Paris Agreement outlines a global action plan to avoid potentially devastating climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to below 2°C.

Global temperatures have risen by around 1°C since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. The 2°C target is essentially a compromise between what scientists believe is necessary to avoid the most dire consequences of global warming – including rising sea levels, devastating storms and mass displacement of populations – and what the signatory countries think is realistically achievable.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app