The US has officially asked to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, striking a serious blow to the global pact that seeks to limit global warming to well below 2C.
Washington formally notified the UN of its intention to withdraw on Monday, more than two years after President Donald Trump announced that the US would exit the accord, which he said would hurt the US economy.
“Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter. “The US is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens.”
Despite Mr Trump’s 2017 announcement, the US had continued to send delegations who were active in negotiations. Monday marked the first day that it was technically possible for the US to formally request a withdrawal, a process that will still take another year to complete.
The US is the first country to pull out of the accord, which went into effect in 2016 and was a top policy priority for the Obama administration. The move to exit brought swift condemnation from climate advocates on Monday.
“Abandoning the Paris Agreement is an abdication of leadership that the vast majority of Americans oppose,” said Michael Bloomberg, the media owner and former New York mayor.
Mr Bloomberg has helped to spearhead a coalition of US states and cities that have pledged to cut their emissions in line with the Paris pact despite the US withdrawal.
“The Paris Agreement was made possible through US leadership. By withdrawing, the United States abandons its allies in the fight against climate change,” said Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice-president for climate change at the Environmental Defense Fund.
“If anything has changed since the president first announced his intentions in 2017, it’s that we have even more evidence that the climate crisis is upon us,” he added.
The absence of the US, as the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, will be a serious setback for the climate pact.
The agreement, which has been ratified by 187 countries, aims to limit global warming to well below 2C. Mr Trump has said it threatens American jobs and the US economy, even though all countries set their own targets under the terms of the deal.
Global emissions have kept rising even after the deal was signed, and countries’ current climate pledges are nowhere near sufficient to meet the 2C target, according to UN calculations.
A growing number of countries in Europe are vowing to cut their emissions more quickly. The UK and France have both pledged to bring their emissions down to net zero by 2050.