WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, fulfilling a campaign promise.
Trump said the agreement gives “countries an economic edge over the United States,” adding, “that’s not going to happen while I’m president.”
The president had kept Washington guessing about whether he would exit from the agreement or stay in the international pact to reduce greenhouse gases, if only to keep a seat at the table.
Wednesday night as speculation hit a frenzied pitch, Trump tweeted he would make his announcement the next day at 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden.
I will be announcing my decision on Paris Accord, Thursday at 3:00 P.M. The White House Rose Garden. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2017
On Thursday, Trump ended the guessing. He strolled into a sweltering Rose Garden to announce he would pull out of the climate accord, and said he would begin negotiations immediately on a new deal with better terms for the U.S. His remarks played to his conservative base, while holding out hope to those who want the administration to work with the international community to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Trump painted the original deal as “unfair” to American workers and taxpayers, suggesting that other countries had more favorable agreements.
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries obtaining a financial advantage over the United States,” he said.
At home, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and daughter Ivanka Trump also urged the president, who had called global warming a “hoax,” to stick with the international pact. Electric car giant Elon Musk and Exxon Mobil, Tillerson’s former company, also pressed the president to stay with the 2015 pact.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt and chief strategist Steve Bannon, however, urged Trump to walk away from the deal and keep his campaign promise to “cancel the Paris Agreement.” A group of 22 Republican senators sent Trump a letter urging him to withdraw as well.
During his Rose Garden address, Trump explained, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Trump repeatedly referred to the accord’s failure to prevent China and India from building additional coal plants. The pact, he said, doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, “it ships them to foreign countries.”
It will take nearly four years for the administration to pull out of the pact, which mandates that the United States reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels in 2025.
Conservatives frequently point out that those goals are non-binding and note that President Barack Obama did not push for the Senate to ratify a treaty because he likely could not have garnered the two-thirds vote necessary for approval.
Critics also point out that China has become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Supporters of the Paris pact note that the U.S. emits more greenhouse gases per capita than China and India combined, according to FactCheck.org.
Congressional Republicans applauded the decision, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky saying Trump had “put families and jobs ahead of left-wing ideology and should be commended.”
“The Paris climate agreement was simply a raw deal for America,” added House Speaker Paul Ryan.
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not wait for Trump’s Rose Garden announcement to release a statement in which she slammed the president for “a stunning abdication of American leadership and a grave threat to our planet’s future.”
After the speech, Musk announced on Twitter, “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or for the world.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement in which he said Trump is “wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement.” Brown planned to fly to China on Friday to “strengthen California’s long-standing climate, clean energy and economic ties with the nation.”
The White House did not back down. During a briefing after the speech, an administration official contended the Paris agreement “would have been the nail in the coffin for U.S. manufacturing.”
Trump referred to a Wall Street Journal editorial that pointed out that if all of the 195 signators meet the Paris goals, experts believe the resulting temperature reduction “won’t matter much to the climate.” Thus he described the international agreement as “a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”
Contact Debra Saunders at email@example.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on Twitter.