U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans Thursday to pull the country out of the landmark 2015 Paris Paris climate accord, fulfilling his major campaign promise while sparking global outcry.
"In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord," Trump said in the White House Rose Garden address.
But Trump added that the United States would begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or "a new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers."
The Paris accord, forged by nearly 200 countries in 2015, is viewed as the best chance to limit global warming by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from burning fossil fuels. It aims to limit the increase in global average temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the breaking point that climate scientist say is the tipping point to catastrophic and irreversible climate change.
After the announcement, Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year, critized Trump's decision as "an abduction of American leadership and an international disgrace." Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, also blamed Trump for turning the fate of the planet into "a reality T.V. show."
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, who helped broker the accord, said in a statement that it was "steady, principled American leadership" on the world stage that made the Paris agreement possible.
"But 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 business will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got," Obama said.
The announcement came after months of internal debate within the Trump administration. Trump had called global warming a “hoax” during his election campaign and vowed to "cancel" the Paris deal within 100 days of becoming president, as part of an effort to bolster U.S. oil and coal industries.
Since taking office, Trump has come under pressure from some advisers, close U.S. allies, corporate CEOs, Democrats and some fellow Republicans to keep the United States in the accord.
At the G7 summit last week, Trump refused to join the six other countries to endorse the landmark climate change accord, saying he needed more time to decide. "I will make my final decision on the Paris accord next week!" Trump said in a Twitter post on Saturday.
Trump’s decision also comes as a significant foreign policy breakup with nearly every other nation on earth, as the only other two countries that aren't supporting the deal are Nicaragua and Syria.
It also indicates a major reversal of environmental policies under Obama, who helped broker the accord. Under the pact, the United States committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emission by 26 to 28 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2025.
Scientists suggested that U.S. withdrawal could result in releasing up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide into the air, enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
Some U.S. states, including California, Washington and New York, have vowed to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue engaging in the international climate agreement process.
The European Union and China, two of the world’s major polluters, had pledged to continue implement of the agreement despite the U.S. retreat.
China has been the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases since 2007, but the U.S. sits at number one for historical emissions since the start of the industrial revolution.
In a Berlin speech, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that fighting climate change is a “global consensus” and an “international responsibility.”
"China will stand by its responsibilities on climate change," Li told reporters after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and before flying on to Brussels for a EU-China summit.
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, tweeted at Mr Trump on Thursday: "please don't change the (political) climate for the worse."
The European Union and China will commit to full implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement in a statement backed by all 28 EU states, EU and Chinese officials said.
"The EU and China consider the Paris Agreement as an historic achievement further accelerating the irreversible global low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient development," the statement to be released after the summit on Friday is expected to say.
Brussels and Beijing will work together to cut reliance on fossil fuels, develop more green technology and raise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut their emissions.
"The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever," the statement will say.