UPDATE: Trump pulls U.S. out of Paris Climate Agreement
President Donald Trump. AP photo
WASHINGTON (NBC News) - The United States will pull out of a landmark global coalition meant to curb emissions that cause climate change, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.
"The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord," Trump said to applause from the crowd gathered in the White House Rose Garden.
He added that the U.S.will begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or a new treaty on terms that are better for American businesses and tax payers.
"So we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair," he said.
Vice President Mike Pence praised Trump for keeping his campaign promises and abiding by his "America First" mantra. In talking points issues to reporters just before Trump's announcement, the White House argued the agreement was "negotiated poorly" as was too costly for the American people with few tangible gains.
The long-awaited decision came as little surprise, with multiple administration officials telling NBC News earlier in the week that the president was leaning toward leaving the signature 2015 agreement that nearly every other country on Earth has signed on to.
Still, the decision is a blow to environmentalists, business leaders and international figures who all week have urged Trump to reconsider.
The U.S. now joins Syria and Nicaragua in not taking part in the global agreement, which includes 195 countries.
President Trump said the other 195 countries in the agreement "went wild, they were so happy" that the U.S. initially joined the accord "for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America which we all love, in a very, very big economic disadvantage."
The Paris Agreement — which was brokered in 2015 and took effect in November 2016 — seeks to prevent increases in global temperatures by gradually reducing man-made emissions that science has shown causes rising temperatures. The accord sets as a specific goal keeping the Earth from warming by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — or 2 degrees Celsius.
While President Obama committed the U.S. to the agreement, it is a voluntary national pledge — not a binding treaty. Obama pledged a lowering of American emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, as well as $3 billion to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, but Congress' most recent spending deal leaves out those funding dollars.
On Thursday, former President Barack Obama said it is now up to states and cities to step up to help pave a low-carbon future.
"The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created," Obama said in a statement. "I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got."
Trump campaigned on stopping that funding, and has taken multiple steps to dismantle the Obama administration's legacy on climate change — including a rolling back of domestic legislation like the Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
During the president's first international trip last week, world leaders — including the Pope — urged him to remain in the accord. Republicans have also spoken in favor of the climate accord, including former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney who tweeted his perspective Wednesday night.
Technically the U.S. can't officially withdraw from the agreement until November 2019 — though it's possible to expedite that process by abandoning a related Senate-approved climate measure linked to the Paris accord.
Affirmation of the #ParisAgreement is not only about the climate: It is also about America remaining the global leader.
Celebrities, environmental groups and American business leaders have also made public pleas and overtures to President Trump, among them Elon Musk of Tesla, Apple's Tim Cook, and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris.
And "science guy" and CEO of Planetary Society, Bill Nye, told MSNBC Thursday "you can't build a border wall against carbon dioxide emissions. No, the time to get to work on this is right now."
Meanwhile, Republican Senators like Mike Lee of Utah, called the Paris Agreement a "bad deal for the United States."
Senator Bob Corker released the following statement on the Paris Agreement:
“I appreciated the opportunity to talk with President Trump and his team several times this week about his decision on the Paris climate agreement,” said Corker. “The substantive requirements of the agreement are, in fact, non-binding. On the other hand, legitimate concerns have been raised about the likelihood of domestic interest groups using the agreement to file lawsuits in an effort to halt the repeal of regulations which, while being litigated, would stifle economic growth here at home. I appreciate the president's desire to renegotiate an agreement that is more in line with what is achievable in a manner that promotes an increase in the standard of living of American citizens and protects our environment. I stand ready to work with him toward that end.”
Trump has previously called global warming a "hoax" and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was unable to answer Tuesday whether or not Trump believes scientific evidence that human activity is contributing to climate change.
"Honestly, I haven't asked him," Spicer said.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly lambasted his predecessor for the focus placed on combating climate change, laughing off the Obama statement that climate change is the biggest threat the planet currently faces.
As president he nominated Scott Pruitt to the EPA Administrator post — someone who in the past expressed doubts about climate change's origins and in March questioned whether carbon dioxide primarily contributes to global warming.
Environmental groups roundly criticized the president's decision.
"Generations from now, Americans will look back at Donald Trump's decision to leave the Paris Agreement as one of the most ignorant and dangerous actions ever taken by any President," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.
"Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers' climate denial operation. It's sad," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and co-chairman of the Senate Climate Action Task Force said in a statement. "America's biggest corporations and investors urged the President to stick with international efforts to address the climate threat. They and all of us will now have to proceed with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the threat, knowing of this President's grave defects."