Last reviewed 2 June 2017

President Donald Trump will withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement — the historic global accord, signed by 195 countries in 2015, to fight climate change.

Speaking to a packed audience in the White House Rose Garden recently, the President said: “In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Accord or an entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So, we’re getting out.”

Abandoning the agreement was one of President Trump’s principal “America First” campaign pledges. Trump said the agreement was “very unfair at the highest level to the United States”, and claimed that the cost to the US would be £3 trillion in lost GDP, including 6.5 million job losses that would “disadvantage and impoverish” the USA.

Pulling out of the agreement reverses one of the Obama administration’s signature achievements. In a statement lamenting the announcement to pull out, Obama said: “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” he said, adding that US cities, states and businesses would still work to reduce warming.

The Paris Agreement commits over 190 other countries to binding targets that aim to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5°C. Without the agreement, scientists predict, global warming and climate change will have catastrophic consequences for many regions on the planet.

Some American states have said they plan to ignore President Trump and follow their own climate change agenda. California Governor, Jerry Brown said Trump has “chosen absolutely the wrong course”.

“He’s wrong about the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist the misguided and insane course of action,” he added.

In Europe, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that leaving the agreement would be a slow process and would leave a leadership vacuum. “We have explained to [President] Trump in Taormina it wouldn’t be good for the world and the US if the US took a step back from the world stage because vacuum will be replaced and the Chinese are pushing to take over the lead,” he said. “I’m in favour of concluding tasks together with our American partners instead of changing the setup.”

Juncker’s comments leave the door open for Trump to reconsider his decision at some point, or at least to continue negotiations on what sort of terms the President considers would be “fair to the United States”. In the meantime, the other 190+ countries that have signed the Paris Agreement have vowed to continue with their climate change commitments. That leaves the USA in the company of Nicaragua and Syria as the only two other countries that have so far refused to sign up to the Paris Agreement.