United States pulls out of climate deal

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President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement, following through on a pledge he made during the presidential campaign, according to a White House document seen by Reuters.

Trump said the Paris agreement “front loads costs on American people,” the document said. He will say the decision fulfils his promise to “put American workers first,” and he hopes to seek “a better deal,” it said.

Trump made the official announcement in the White House Rose Garden.

An American withdrawal, promised by Trump during the 2016 US presidential campaign, deepens a rift with US allies and align the United States with Syria and Nicaragua as the world’s only non-participants in the 195-nation accord agreed upon in Paris in 2015.

Supporters of the accord condemned Trump’s move as an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace.

“At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations,” said US Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year.

“Ignoring reality and leaving the Paris agreement could go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the US further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip,” Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse added.

Virtually every nation voluntarily committed to steps aimed at curbing global emissions of “greenhouse” gases. These include carbon dioxide generated from burning of fossil fuels that scientists blame for a warming planet, sea level rise, droughts and more frequent violent storms.

The Vatican, which under Pope Francis’ insistence has strongly backed the accord, would see a US exit as disaster and “a huge slap in the face,” Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a senior Vatican official, told the Rome newspaper La Repubblica.

At their meeting last month, the pope gave Trump a signed copy of his 2015 encyclical letter calling for protecting the environment from the effects of climate change and backed scientific evidence that it is caused by human activity.

Scientists have said a US withdrawal from the deal could speed up the effects of global climate change, leading to heat waves, floods, droughts and more frequent violent storms.

During the campaign, Trump said the accord would cost the US economy trillions of dollars with no tangible benefit. Trump has expressed doubts about climate change, at times calling it a hoax to weaken US industry.

The Republican vowed at the time to “cancel” the Paris deal within 100 days of becoming president on Jan. 20, part of an effort to bolster US oil and coal industries.

Since taking office, he has come under pressure from some advisers, close US allies, corporate CEOs, Democrats and some fellow Republicans to keep the United States in the accord.

The United States, under former President Barack Obama, had committed to reduce its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The United States, exceeded only by China in greenhouse gas emissions, accounts for more than 15 percent of the worldwide total.

Last year was the warmest since records began in the 19th century, as global average temperatures continued a rise dating back decades that leading climate scientists attribute to man-made greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted on Thursday, “Climate action is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pressed Trump to stay in the pact last week at a meeting of the G7 industrialized nations, on Thursday described the accord as essential and said she was pleased many other governments agreed.

Merkel met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and they pledged to continue fighting climate change.

China, which overtook the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007, and the European Union will seek on Friday to save the Paris agreement, with Li meeting top EU officials in Brussels.

In a statement backed by all 28 EU states, the EU and China were poised to commit to full implementation of the agreement, officials said.