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Trump withdraws US from Paris Agreement

Alistair Walsh with AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa
June 1, 2017

The Paris deal is too costly for the US, said Donald Trump as he withdrew his country from the accord. The US now joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not to support the landmark global climate change deal.

USA Trump zieht die USA vom Pariser Klimaabkommen zurück
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

The US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change despite international condemnation, US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday.

'In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord," Trump said at the White House.

"As of today the US will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.

"This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and very importantly the Green Climate Fund which is costing the US a vast fortune."

Trump said he was willing to reenter negotations or to negotiate a new agreement that is more advantageous to America. 

"We will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great, and if we can't that's fine.

Read: EU, China pledge Paris allegiance whatever Trump does

In the past days scores of world leaders and international organizations implored Trump not to drop out of the historic agreement. Political leaders from the European Union, China, fellow G7 member states, as well as the heads of investment firms with trillions of dollars in assets, more than 1,000 US companies including coal and oil producers, and even the pope had all lobbied Trump to stick to the agreement.

But Trump said that after consultations with people on both sides of the debate he would withdraw.

Read: Leaving Paris agreement could be a 'breach of human rights'

What is the Paris deal?

Almost 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, with China and the US - respectively, the world's No. 1 and 2 emitters - proving crucial to negotiations. The pact tries to limit global warming to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) compared with preindustrial temperatures.

Syria and Nicaragua were the world's only non-participants in the landmark accord, although Nicaragua did not participate as it thought it did not go far enough to address climate change.

Throughout Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, he argued against the deal, saying China had created a climate change "hoax" to hurt the US economically. After taking office in January Trump immediately began gutting predecessor Barack Obama's environmental policies, saying he would prefer to reverse decades of decline in coal mining.

Almost every other industrialized economy in the world is moving in the opposite direction.

Europe and China take the lead

The possibility of a US withdrawal pushed the EU noticeably closer to China for support on climate change action. For the first time the EU and China released a joint statement on Thursday that pledged to uphold their obligations under the global pact despite a possible withdrawal by the US.

The statement, which was backed by all 28 EU member states, commits to cutting back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology and helping raise US$100 billion (89 billion euros) a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut their emissions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Europe can no longer rely on its traditional allies and had to look to countries such as China.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang stand on a podium to listen to the national anthems at the Chancellery
Trump's protectionist policies and his reticence on climate change action have pushed Europe closer to ChinaImage: Getty Images/M.Tantussi

"China has become a more important and strategic partner," Merkel said at a joint news conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Berlin. "We are living in times of global uncertainty and see that we have a responsibility to expand our partnership in all the different areas and to push for a world order based on law."

Merkel described the Paris climate accord as an "essential" pact on Thursday and said she was pleased that many other governments took the same view.

Germany set a national record in April with 85 percent of all electricity produced in the country coming from renewable sources. In the same month, Scotland had an electricity surplus from its wind turbines, producing 136 percent of the energy needed for its 3.3 million households.

Earlier this year the Chinese government canceled the construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants, instead announcing plans to invest at least US$360 billion (321 billion euros) in green-energy projects by 2020, creating an estimated 13 million jobs.

China remains the top global emitter but also leads the world in total installed solar and wind capacity. China generates about 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, compared to about 13 percent in the US.

EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said Thursday that the EU would not impose trade sanctions on the US if it withdrew.

"We are going to show them that implementing our targets is very positive for the economy, very positive for developing sophisticated technological advances and it is very positive for the welfare of the citizens."