The US has made good on President Donald Trump's promise to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. But the country will still engage in talks and says it could even re-enter the pact - if terms for the US improve.
The US State Department issued a press release Friday stating that it had officially informed the United Nations (UN) of its intent to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement "as soon as it is eligible to do so."
Over the course of the next four years, the State Department said the US will "continue to participate in international climate change negotiations and meetings … to protect US interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration."
The announcement to depart the accord is a symbolic move since signatories to the treaty cannot withdraw until three years after it went into effect.
The Paris accord entered into force on November 4, 2016, meaning the US' official withdrawal process cannot begin before that date in 2019. It will then take one year to negotiate the exit. The earliest possible exit date will fall around November 4, 2020 - one day after the next US presidential elections.
The department's official notice of intent follows through on Trump's June 1 announcement that he would pull the US out of the global climate pact while leaving the door open to re-joining, "if the United States can identify terms that are more favorable to it, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers."
While visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris last month, Trump hinted at a future shift in policy, saying, "Something could happen with respect to the Paris accords - let's see what happens."
US out, 'America First'
In his decision to pull the plug on US participation in the Paris accord, Trump argued that the agreement inflicted unfair costs on Americans and would have harmed the nation's oil, coal, gas and manufacturing industries, including by slashing jobs in those sectors.
Echoing Trump's rationale, the US State Department wrote that the country "supports a balanced approach to climate policy that lowers emissions while promoting economic growth and ensuring energy security."
The US signed the pact under President Barack Obama, agreeing to reduce its 2005 emissions levels more than a quarter by 2025.
The United States is the world's second largest producer of greenhouse gases following China, which also signed the Paris pact.
While energy and manufacturing industry leaders and leading Republican congressional representatives applauded Trump's decision to pull the US out of the accord, other business leaders lamented the missed opportunity to focus on bolstering the US' renewable energy sector. Many government leaders from the nearly 200 other nations that signed the pact also ridiculed the idea that the long-fought agreement could be re-negotiated.
The next UN global climate meeting, COP-23,will take place on November 23 in Bonn, Germany.
cmb/gsw (Reuters, AFP, AP)