The US has officially notified the UN of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Accord — the only country to renege on its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

Pulling out of the climate change agreement was a key pledge in Donald Trump’s 2016 ‘America First’ election campaign, claiming it threaten American jobs and would harm the US economy. In 2017, as President, he announced that the US would cease all participation in the Agreement, as soon as possible.

Early on in his Presidency, the Trump administration had said it was willing to renegotiate terms that were more favourable to the US or review the terms on which they could be engaged under the agreement. But this did not materialise. Documents sent by the US administration to the UN this week begin the official one-year process for exiting from the Paris Agreement.

In a State announcement, Trump said: “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries…. Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord.”

The decision by the President to pull out of the climate change agreement has been widely criticised in the US and elsewhere. Former Vice President, Al Gore described Trump’s decision as “reckless”. “No one person or party can stop our momentum to solve the climate crisis, but those who try will be remembered for their complacency, complicity, and mendacity in attempting to sacrifice the planet for their greed,” he added.

A number of US states, civic leaders and businesses have chosen to ignore the President’s withdrawal from the agreement and made their own voluntary ‘sub-national pledges’ to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg said in a statement: …the Paris Agreement succeeded in large part because their voices were heard, and they will keep us moving forward until we have a president who will confront the climate crisis and put the public’s health and safety first.”

Elsewhere, a French presidential official announced that President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sign a pact that includes wording on the "irreversibility" of the Paris climate accord sometime this week.

The US is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, which means the other 487 countries which have signed up to the Paris Agreement (10 countries have yet to ratify their targets), will need to strengthen their commitments, if the goal of keeping global warming at or below 1.5°C by 2050 is to be met.

Under the terms of the Paris Accord, the earliest possible date the United States can withdraw from the agreement is November 4, 2020, one day after the 2020 US presidential election. A new president, if elected, would still have the opportunity to reverse President Trump’s decision and stay in the agreement.

Last reviewed 6 November 2019