President Donald Trump declared Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris accord and try to negotiate a new global deal on climate change.
“I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America’s interests,” the president declared in an address in the White House Rose Garden watched anxiously by leaders around the world.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.
“As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump said.
The US president complained that the accord signed under his predecessor President Barack Obama gives other countries an unfair advantage over US industry and destroys American jobs.
“I cannot, in good conscience, support a deal that punishes the United States -- the world’s leader in environmental protection -- while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters,” Trump said, before singling out China and India.
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” he claimed.
“So we’re getting out but we’ll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine,” he said.
The White House says President Donald Trump spoke with the leaders of Germany, France, Canada and Britain Thursday to explain his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
The White House says the president thanked the leaders for holding “frank, substantive discussions” with him on the issue. He reassured them that the US is committed to the trans-Atlantic alliance and “robust efforts to protect the environment,” according to the White House readout of the call.
Trump also vowed that the US will be “the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth” going forward.
The president met with all four leaders last week at the NATO and Group of 7 summits in Europe.
Trump’s decision sparked an instant wave of indignation both at home and abroad, with Obama saying the move meant the US was “joining a handful of nations that reject the future.”
Republican US congressional leaders backed Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded Trump “for dealing yet another significant blow to the Obama administration's assault on domestic energy production and jobs.”
After a struggle within his administration, Trump followed the advice of Steve Bannon, a top adviser who specializes in managing Trump’s populist appeal, and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.
Germany said the US was “harming” the entire planet, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the decision “seriously wrong.”
And after his city was cited, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto laid into Trump, tweeting: “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.”
Obama slams Trump
Barack Obama slammed his successor Trump on Thursday for pulling out of the climate deal, warning that the move would see the United States “reject the future.”
“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” Obama warned in a statement.
“Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got,” he added.
Before leaving office, Obama helped shepherd the landmark international pact that commits all signatory nations to limiting global warming caused by carbon emissions.
“It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well,” Obama said.
“And what made that leadership and ambition possible was America’s private innovation and public investment in growing industries like wind and solar.”
Europe incensed, dismayed
European leaders and green groups reacted with anger and dismay after President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States, the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, was quitting the 2015 Paris Agreement.
But they also pledged to defend the agreement and not to backtrack in the fight against climate change.
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Union’s executive Commission, lashed Trump’s decision as “seriously wrong.”
The body’s commissioner for climate action and energy Miguel Arias Canete pledged continued “global leadership” on climate change.
“The EU deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration,” he said in a statement.
“The Paris Agreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change.
“Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable.”
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “regret” at the decision, and called for a continuation of “climate policies which preserve our world.”
Seven Social Democratic ministers in her coalition government said the United States “is harming itself, we Europeans and all the people of the world.”
In France, Paris city hall said it would illuminate its building in green on Thursday “in a sign of disapproval” of Trump’s announcement and to recall the determination of cities around the world to fight climate change.
In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said his country should not retreat from its actions on climate.
“Let’s not go backwards from the Paris Agreement,” he said on Twitter. “Italy is committed to reducing (carbon) emissions, to renewable energy, sustainable development.”
Among environment groups, Climate Action Network, said the withdrawal “signals that the Trump Administration is in total discord with both reality and the rest of the world.”
“Unfortunately, the first to suffer from this injudicious decision is the American people,” the group, an alliance of climate activists, said.
“This action is totally contrary to their best interests: their health, security, food supply, jobs and future.”