President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, citing a need to prioritize the economic needs of U.S. citizens and revitalize components of the economy he said the accord would impede.
The move embodies the mantra of his insurgent campaign to "Make America Great Again" by putting Americans first.
"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he said. "I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States - which is what it does."
Trump had previously told aides he intended to pull out of the agreement but had not decided exactly how to do it. A White House official confirmed that Trump had decided to withdraw from the agreement right before he was slated to speak about the decision at 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden.
Trump said he was open to renegotiating the deal, but only if it benefitted U.S. companies and taxpayers. But, according to the Associated Press, France Germany and Italy issued a joint statement that the agreement is not up for renegotiation.
The Paris Agreement aims to combat climate change and keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6°F by 2100. Each country that signs the agreement establishes its own benchmarks for reducing carbon emissions. The U.S. formally entered the agreement in September of 2016.
Only two of the 197 nations in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change declined to sign the agreement: Nicaragua and Syria.
Trump insisted that withdrawing would not adversely impact the environment. "The United States under the Trump administration will be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly on earth," he said. "We'll have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, we will be environmentally friendly but we're not gonna put our businesses out of work."
Without citing any evidence, Trump said that the rest of the world rejoiced when the United States signed the agreement, which is non-binding because it would deal such a blow to the country's economy.
But the backlash against Trump's decision to withdraw had already begun before he made his official announcement.
"I am a transatlantic, but if the American president says in the next few hours or days he wants to get out of the Paris deal, then it is the duty of Europe to say that it can not be so," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said at an event in Berlin prior to Trump's announcement.
Earlier reports that Trump was planning on leaving the agreement also drew condemnation domestically, from both Democratic lawmakers and business leaders. Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly phoned the White House Tuesday to urge the President to remain in the agreement, according to Bloomberg News, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday that he would have to resign from his position on White House Councils if Trump withdrew. Musk confirmed his resignation on Twitter after Trump's announcement.
"Climate change is real," he wrote. "Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world."
--With reporting by Zeke J. Miller