United States President Donald Trump yesterday announced that the US would be withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
The Paris agreement commits the US, together with 187 other countries to keep the rise in global temperatures to 'well below' 2C above pre-industrial levels and to try to limit them from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The US joins Nicaragua and Syria, which were the only countries that declined to join the agreement when it was originally signed.
Mr Trump argues that the Paris agreement aims to disadvantage the US, claiming that it would cause the loss of 2.7 million jobs by 2025, whilst rivals like China and India receive more favourable deals and do not have to start curbing their emissions until 2030. China has committed to spending $360 billion on renewable energy in coming years, going well beyond the terms of the Paris agreement.
He said "We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore - and they won't be".
Mr Trump has said that he wants to negotiate a new deal with terms more favourable to the US. America is currently the world's largest economy and the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Under the Paris agreement, no country can give notice to quit the pact until three years after it came into force on16 November 2016. The process of actually leaving the pact takes a further year, meaning the US will not be able to formally leave the Paris agreement until a few weeks after the next US Presidential election in November 2020. White House officials have confirmed that America will abide by the exit process in the meantime.
Reaction in the US has been mixed. Former President Barack Obama accused Mr Trump's administration of "rejecting the future". Both Elon Musk, entrepreneur founder of electric car maker Tesla and Robert Iger, Chief Executive of Disney have resigned from White House advisory roles in response to the news. The leader of the Democrats in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer said Mr Trump's decision was "one of the worst policy moves made in the 21st Century because of the huge damage to our economy, our environment and our geopolitical standing".
Former Vice President Al Gore, whose documentary on global warming "An Inconvenient Truth" had such an impact on the world, called the decision "a reckless and indefensible action".
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said that Mr Trump had dealt "yet another significant blow to the Obama administration's assault on domestic energy production and jobs". Meanwhile, America's biggest coal mining company, Peabody Energy said that sticking to the terms of the agreement would have badly affected the US economy. Across the world, leaders have been united in their dismay at the US decision. European and Chinese leaders have pledged to continue combatting climate change. Newly-elected French President Emanuel Macron said "Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: to make our planet great again". British Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed 'disappointment' at Mr Trump's announcement.
Planned US emissions reductions under the Paris agreement amounted to one fifth of global emissions to be avoided by 2030. If the US returns to its pre-Paris emissions levels, the world could warm by an additional 0.3C by 2100.
Mr Trump's 'America first' approach will, he and his supporters believe, remove controls on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions like Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan that would in their belief have harmed the US economy. According to the US Department for Energy, there are around 373,000 Americans currently working in the solar industry - roughly double the number working in coal mining.
It seems that without a change of heart from the US, it will fall to Europe and China (currently the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter) to lead the way on addressing climate change in the future. Professor John Schellnhuber, a climate scientist and former adviser to the EU, the Pope and Angela Merkel thinks that Mr Trump's team has misread the situation on climate change. He said "the climate wars are over, while the race for sustainable prosperity is on".
Photo by Gage Skidmore