President Donald Trump confirmed he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, but says he will "re-negotiate terms" that could see the U.S. re-enter at a future date provided the deal is fair.
Trump made the announcement Thursday afternoon, saying the treaty "disadvantages the United States" by leading to "vastly diminished economic production."
"In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect the United States and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord," he said.
He went on to say the U.S. will immediately "cease all implementation" of its non-binding commitments to the accord, which former President Barack Obama agreed would see the country reduce its emissions by 25-28 by 2025.
Trump also said it would stop the U.S.'s $3 billion contribution to the United Nations Green Climate Fund that helps developing nations move to clean energy.
In talking points given by the White House to Congress, reported by NBC, Trump argues the accord would "decapitate" the U.S. coal industry, cost jobs, and it imposes unrealistic targets for the U.S. reducing its emissions, saying the U.S. is already a clean energy leader and would continue to be outside of the accord.
The move comes as a massive blow to the global climate agreement, in which all but two nations (Syria and Nicaragua) agreed to take voluntary efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and attempt to keep it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Yale University reports global temperatures in 2016 were 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
One of the criticisms from the White House is that the terms are unfavorable to the U.S., noting China – the world's biggest polluter – has only agreed its emissions will peak in 2030 before reducing, though the Washington Post reports it's now on track to peak its emissions much earlier.
NBC News has broken down what Trump's decision means for America's options for withdrawal (which could take four years) going forward.
Blow to global climate efforts
As the second-biggest carbon polluter in the world currently, and the biggest in history, U.S. involvement in the agreement is seen as hugely important to its success.
Nonetheless, in the wake of the country's impending withdrawal, the world's current biggest polluter, China, and the European Union have both re-affirmed their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Since news broke earlier this week that Trump intended to withdraw, there have been efforts from politicians, nations and industry to try to get him to change his mind.
The Star Tribune reports major Minnesota companies including 3M, Cargill, Best Buy, Target and General Mills signed their names to a letter to the president three weeks ago, urging him to keep the nation in the agreement, not just for environmental reasons, but to ensure the U.S. remains a leading light for innovation.
"Signing the accord means being a champion for U.S. economic growth and job creation," Cargill CEO David MacLennan told the paper. "Caring about sustainability of the planet is not only the right thing to do for people and the environment, it is also good business."
This view is shared by some prominent Republicans, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But there are also critics of the Paris Agreement. This Fox News piece suggests the targets set in the treaty are ineffectual and would only reduce temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100.
The story also says the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the Paris Agreement was borne from represents a sticky political situation for Trump, given it recognizes the Palestinian Authority.
Others, among them Sen. Rand Paul, were critical of Obama signing the U.S. up for the agreement while bypassing Congress.
But former EPA chief Liz Gannon says withdrawing from the deal will cost jobs in the burgeoning clean energy sector, adding the U.S. will "cede technology breakthroughs to countries that take over our leadership role."
Trump's climate change skepticism
Trump has signaled in the past he doesn't give much credence to scientific consensus that the changing climate is largely resulting from human activity, even going so far a few years ago to tweet that global warming is a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese for economic reasons.
Shortly after being elected however, he suggested he was keeping an open mind about the climate change question, giving hope to environmentalists that the country would not give up on its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
But since taking office, he has appointed Scott Pruitt, himself a climate skeptic, to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and taken several steps to repeal environmental regulations implemented by the Obama Administration.
ArsTechnica reports this includes trying to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, an order that energy providers reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030.
Minnesota's biggest utility, Xcel Energy, told GoMN repealing the plan wouldn't stop its own increasing investment in renewables, which it sees as playing a much bigger and cheaper role in future energy generation.