The United States has officially begun the process of withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the landmark climate deal agreed in 2015.
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo confirmed that the State Department notified the United Nations on Monday that it was formally withdrawing from the agreement. The withdrawal will take place one year from today – a day after next year's US presidential election.
President Donald Trump campaigned to exit the agreement signed by his predecessor Barack Obama during the 2016 presidential race, announcing his decision to withdraw in June 2017.
But he was bound by the terms of the UN agreement to remain part of the accord until November 4th, 2019. The US is the world's second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, after China.
Announcing the US’s decision to formally begin the withdrawal process, Mr Pompeo defended the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the agreement, stressing the “unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by US pledges made under the Agreement”.
He said that the US’s climate change policy represents a “realistic and pragmatic model,” noting that US net greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 13 per cent between 2005 and 2017, “even as our economy grew over 19 per cent”.
Confirmation of the US’s withdrawal from the pact comes just weeks after a major Climate Action Summit in New York, which highlighted the challenges posed by global warming.
Several of the Democratic candidates for president have said they will re-enter the accord if they win next year’s presidential election, and could sign the US back up to the agreement when inaugurated in January 2021.
Democratic front-runner Joe Biden called the decision “shameful”, and pointed to the wild fires currently raging in California and recent floods in Iowa. “Trump continues to abandon science and our international leadership,” he said.
More than 200 countries signed up to the 2015 accord which aims to limit the rise in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Mr Obama pledged to reduce the US’s carbon emissions by between 26 and 29 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.