President Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the world’s first comprehensive deal on climate change.
The announcement to exit the Paris Agreement strikes a major blow to worldwide efforts to combat climate change and distances the country from many global allies.
“As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord,” Mr Trump said during a White House Rose Garden announcement.
He said the US would try to negotiate re-entry on better terms.
But, suggesting renegotiating re-entry was not a major priority, he added: “If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”
By abandoning the world’s chief effort to slow the tide of planetary warming, Mr Trump was fulfilling a key campaign pledge. But he was also breaking from many of America’s staunches allies, who have expressed alarm about the decision.
Under former president, Barack Obama, the US had agreed to reduce emissions to between 26 per cent and 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2025 – about 1.6 billion tons.
But Mr Trump said the agreement disadvantaged the US “to the exclusive benefit of other countries”, leaving American businesses and taxpayers to absorb the cost.
The president said: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Scientists say the world is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as a result of the president’s decision because America contributes so much to rising temperatures.
Calculations suggest withdrawal could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year – enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon, following only China. Beijing, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris accord, recently cancelling construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and investing billions in massive wind and solar projects.
The White House had signalled earlier in the week that withdrawal was likely, but Mr Trump has been known to change his mind at the last minute on major decisions.
White House aides were divided on the topic and had been deliberating on “caveats in the language” as late as Wednesday, one official said.
Meanwhile, Chinese and EU leaders are set to agree a joint statement backing the Paris agreement, saying it is “an imperative more important than ever”.