President Donald Trump proclaimed Thursday he was withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord, a sweeping step that fulfills a campaign promise while acutely dampening global efforts to curb global warming.
Speaking from the White House, Trump said he was open to renegotiating aspects of the agreement, which was inked under his predecessor and which all nations except two have signed onto.
But he was withering in his criticism of the pact, which he cast as a humiliating defeat for American workers that unfairly advantaged foreign countries.
"At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?" Trump inquired during an afternoon event held in a sun-drenched Rose Garden.
"We want fair treatment," Trump said. "We don't want other countries and other leaders to laugh at us anymore."
The decision amounts to a rebuttal of the worldwide effort to pressure Trump to remain a part of the agreement, which 195 nations signed onto. Foreign leaders, business executives, and Trump's own daughter, Ivanka, lobbied heavily for him to remain a part of the deal, but ultimately lost out to conservatives who claim the plan is bad for the United States.
Trump, who has governed with an "American First" policy, said Thursday he was carrying out the will of the voters who propelled him to the White House.
"I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh," Trump said, "not Paris."
In triggering the official withdrawal procedures, Trump has sparked a lengthy process that won't conclude until November 2020 -- the same month he's up for reelection, ensuring the issue becomes a major topic of debate in the next presidential contest.
In his remarks, Trump said he was open to re-brokering US carbon reduction commitments, but didn't express any urgency in bringing the US back into the deal, which he claimed placed "draconian" financial burdens on the American people.
"We're getting out," he said. "And we will start to renegotiate and we'll see if there's a better deal. If we can, great. If we can't, that's fine."
Afterward, the leaders of France, Italy and Germany indicated in a joint statement that the US could not unilaterally renegotiate the agreement. The UN body that facilitated the deal said it "cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single party."
Briefing reporters, White House officials would not specify what parameters would be acceptable to Trump in a new accord.
"When we talk about what a better deal looks like, that's up to the President," said one White House aide.
Trump said his announcement would end the implementation of carbon reduction targets set under Obama, which aimed to reduce emissions by 26-28% in a decade. Trump also declared the US would stall all contributions to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund, which Trump said was "costing the United States a fortune."
"As someone who cares deeply about our environment, I cannot in good conscience support a deal which punishes the United States," he said. "The Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States."
The President campaigned ardently against the climate agreement last year as a candidate, vowing to "cancel" the accord. Those close to him said he was insistent upon fulfilling his promises, despite urging from some members of his own administration to remain in the agreement.
A person familiar with Trump's thinking said the President was convinced he needed to withdraw from the pact, and there was little chance of talking him out of it.
Opponents of the move say it threatens to isolate the United States in a global effort to curb the warming of the planet, and leaves an opening for countries like China to fill the leadership void.