President Donald Trump today announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate change agreement, but said he would start negotiations to strike an improved deal on better terms for America.
In a speech in the White House's famous Rose Garden, Trump said: "The US will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Accord or an entirely new transaction."
Trump tied his rejection of the climate change agreement to the US economy, which he said is "starting to come back."
The Paris agreement was reached in 2015 after an exhausting round of failed international summits. It was hailed at the time as an historic first step on the road to tackling climate change and a key part of former President Barack Obama's legacy.
However, Trump said the agreement gave other nations an "economic edge over the United States". He added he was elected to represent the "citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris", while also announcing the termination of a US government investment fund for green technology around the world.
In a written statement, Obama said: "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 to 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.”
Former vice President Joe Biden said leaving the agreement "imperils US security and our ability to own the clean energy future".
World leaders had urged Trump to keep the US in the agreement, underscoring the risk of increased international isolation for the world's largest economy.
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy released a joint statement in which they expressed "regret" at the move but insisted the agreement is not up for negotiation.
The statement said: "We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated".
The UK's secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Greg Clark, said Britain remains "committed" to the Paris agreement. He added: "Clean growth [is] a key pillar of our modern industrial strategy."
At a summit between European and Chinese leaders in Berlin, China’s Premier Li Keqiang said: "China will stand by its responsibilities on climate change."
United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres earlier warned the support of the world’s largest economy was crucial for the seminal agreement, according to the BBC.
Guterres said: "The Paris agreement is essential for our collective future and it's also important that American society – like all other societies, the business community – mobilise themselves in order to preserve the Paris agreement."
Business groups reacted negatively to the announcement.
In a statement the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) called Trump's decision "misguided".
The IIGCC, which counts Blackrock, UBS and HSBC Asset Management among its members, said: ‘By opting out, the US administration is failing to recognise what is already an inevitable and irreversible direction of travel away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards a low carbon future – with all the jobs, growth and innovation that this entails."
Michelle Hubert, head of energy and infrastructure at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “It’s disappointing that President Trump has signalled his intention to withdraw the United States from the Agreement, but now is the time for governments to affirm their commitment to it by turning global ambition into national reality.
"By investing and innovating, British businesses will be at the heart of delivering a low-carbon economy, and will want to see domestic policies that demonstrate commitment to this goal."
Matt Christensen, global head of responsible investment at AXA Investment Managers, said: “In the mid-term, we believe this decision is more symbolic than material. We also think that most of the negative impact from this decision will be on the US itself and not so much on global climate action, which should keep its momentum regardless. The US may be surprised to find trade negotiations more difficult as an outcome of this action."
Before his election last November Trump emphasised his campaign pledge to scrap the agreement. In today's speech, he said: "One by one we are keeping our promises to the American people."
Trump argued the Paris agreement was a burden on jobs in the coal-mining industry and a drag on growth.
In 2012 he tweeted that climate change was a hoax “by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012