The Trump administration notified the United Nations on Monday that it will formally withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, marking the first step in a one-year process to exit the global pact to fight climate change.
The move would leave the US as the only country outside the accord, a decision President Trump promised early in his term to unfetter America’s domestic oil, gas and coal industries.
“What we won’t do is punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters,” Trump said at a shale gas industry conference in Pennsylvania on Oct. 23, referring to his planned withdrawal from the agreement.
The US had signed onto the 2015 pact during the Obama administration, promising a 26-28 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels.
Trump campaigned on a promise to rescind that pledge, saying it would unfairly hurt the US economy while leaving other big polluters like China to increase emissions, but he was bound by UN rules to wait until Monday to file the exit papers.
Climate change, he asserted, was a “hoax” cooked up by the Chinese to damage the US.
The State Department gave the letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, starting the clock on a process that would be completed just one day after the 2020 presidential election, on November 4, 2020.
All of the top Democratic presidential hopefuls seeking to unseat Trump in next year’s election have promised to re-engage the in the Paris Agreement if they win.
But Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord could still leave a lasting mark, said Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and former adviser to the climate envoy under President Obama.
“While it serves the political needs of the Trump administration, we will lose a lot of traction with respect to US influence globally,” he said, adding it could take time for the international community “to trust the US as a consistent partner.”
Until its formal exit, the US will continue to participate in negotiations over the technical aspects of the agreement, represented by a small team of career State Department officials.
The US and China, the world’s two largest carbon emitters, have recently been leading negotiations of the Paris “rule book” that outlines transparency and reporting rules for signatories.
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