WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced Thursday the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, but says the U.S. will begin negotiations to re-enter an agreement.
Vice President Mike Pence says President Donald Trump is "choosing to put American jobs and American consumers first" with his announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris accord.
Pence introduced Trump in the Rose Garden Thursday, where he made the announcement that the U. S. will withdraw from the Paris global climate pact.
Pence praised Trump's leadership and said Trump is "is choosing to put the forgotten men and women of America first."
Abandoning the pact was one of Trump's principal campaign pledges.
Former President Barack Obama said the Trump administration is joining "a small handful of nations that reject the future" by withdrawing from the Paris climate change pact.
Obama defended the deal that his administration painstakingly negotiated. He said the countries that stay in the Paris deal will "reap the benefits in "jobs and industries created." He said the U.S. should be "at the front of the pack."
The former president said in a statement that Trump's decision reflects "the absence of American leadership." But Obama said he's confident nonetheless that U.S. cities, states and businesses will fill the void by taking the lead on protecting the climate.
Obama said that businesses have chosen "a low-carbon future" and are already investing heavily in renewable sources like wind and solar.
Several local leaders responded to the presidents decision.
"Cities are front and center in the fight against climate change and we have to take action,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “We must not let the President’s decision today slow our efforts. As the energy capital of the world and the nation’s largest municipal purchaser of green power, Houston is leading by example and living proof that large, industrial cities can have a robust economy and also fight climate change.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton thanked President Trump for withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.
“President Trump’s courageous decision to exit the Paris Accord recognizes that the United States is not legally bound to an Obama-era agreement that set unrealistic emissions targets at the expense of billions of American taxpayer dollars without the approval of Congress,” Paxton said. “By making a clean break from the deal, the president has freed up economic growth and protected American jobs.”
Rep. Al Greene also commented.
“The fight against climate change is an international priority supported by 195 countries,” Green said. “Until today, the United States has been leading the international community to reduce carbon emissions and protecting our planet for future generations. Thanks to innovation, investment, and smart policies, our nation’s carbon emissions have already declined by 11 percent since 2005. President Trump’s announcement to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, regretfully, will hand international leadership on climate change to China and other nations who do not share our priorities.
“While some Members of Congress continue to deny the progression of human-induced climate change, the majority of Congress does not. Regardless of President Trump’s decision, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure we address climate change and work toward the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.”
The decision would be a significant foreign policy break with nearly every other nation on earth and a major reversal of the Obama administration's efforts on climate change.
Trump met Tuesday with a key voice advocating for withdrawal, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. He meets Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who supported remaining in the deal.
The precise mechanism for withdrawal hasn't yet been determined, but Trump has made clear he plans to fulfill his campaign promises to withdraw.
A formal announcement is expected at some point this week. The officials cautioned the plans could change until Trump makes his decision public.
The administration's decision comes after months of internal debate and speculation about what Trump, who campaigned on leaving the deal, would do once he took office.
The White House was initially slated to make a final decision on the climate accord earlier this month but delayed the decision until the G7 meeting in Sicily. At the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters the climate debate was "controversial" and that the leaders of the other G7 nations -- France, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy -- all urged Trump to remain a part of the 2015 agreement.
Aides to Trump said he was listening with an open mind to the other leaders' arguments about Paris, but had yet to decide whether to withdraw the U.S. from the pact.
The meetings inside the West Wing had been contentious, sources told CNN, as aides expressed their deep grievances over the climate agreement that President Barack Obama helped broker with every country except Syria and Nicaragua.
Fierce divisions inside White House
Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and the former head of Breitbart, had pressed Trump to stick with his campaign promise and leave the deal.
But Ivanka Trump, the president's top aide and daughter, pressed aides to look at the full picture when considering what withdrawal could mean. Trump's son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner, was said to be neutral on the deal.
Tillerson and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry had both advised against leaving the deal, sources said.
Trump has also been bombarded with voices urging him to stay in the deal from outside the White House. Elon Musk, the tech billionaire and founder of Tesla, tweeted earlier this month that he spoke with Trump about sticking with the deal. And former Vice President Al Gore, according to a person familiar with a call between him and the president, spoke with Trump earlier this month.
Gore, who met with Trump during his presidential transition, has been an outspoken critic of leaving the Paris accord.
Obama and a host of other countries signed the climate change agreement in 2015 and the former president touted it as the "best chance we have" to save the planet.
"The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis," Obama said, speaking from the White House. "It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way."
But Republicans have slammed the climate deal and Trump joined the chorus when he ran for president.
Trump said he would "cancel" the deal on the campaign trial and his campaign's energy plan included a pledge to "cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs."