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Published: Thursday, June 01, 2017 @ 11:55 AM
Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he would withdraw the United States from a landmark world agreement on climate change, arguing the Paris accords do more economic damage to the U.S. than help in terms of cleaning up the environment.
"I cannot in good conscience support a deal that harms the United States," the President said during a sun-splashed event in the White House Rose Garden, as he said he was still open to new negotiations that would not be a negative economic impact on the U.S.
Mr. Trump said the Paris deal would cost the U.S. trillions in economic development, and millions of jobs, as he charged the accord would do little to rein in big polluters like China and India, and would only give them an "economic edge" over the U.S.
"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he declared.
"The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States' wealth to other countries," the President added.
Mr. Trump rattled off a number a U.S. industries that he says have been harmed by excessive efforts on climate change - paper, cement, iron, steel, coal and natural gas.
"No responsible leader can put the workers of their own country at a debilitating disadvantage," Mr. Trump said.
"The Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy," he added.
With the decision, the U.S. joins only Nicaragua and Syria in not being a party to the Paris agreement, a non-binding document that allows countries to set their own goals for pollution reductions.
"Thanks to President Donald Trump, America is back," said Vice President Mike Pence to applause.
"President Trump made the right call on the Paris Climate Accord," said Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).
"America finally has a leader who answers only to the people," said EPA chief Scott Pruitt.
Mr. Trump has made clear before that he sees little to support when it comes to climate change - and while some Republicans might not agree with the President, GOP strategists like Rory Cooper were not overly concerned by the politics of the move.
"I think most Republicans would welcome Democrats centering their campaign around the Paris Agreement," Cooper tweeted.
Democrats argued this move could swing pivotal votes to them, and away from the GOP, especially in suburban areas - but for the most part, Democrats are already in a strong political position near most big urban centers.
The White House told reporters that the accord accomplishes little, arguing that the United States has already taken major steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
While the decision by the President sounds immediate, it evidently takes time for the U.S. to officially back out.
"According to the terms of the Agreement, no country can begin the withdrawal process until three years after the Agreement enters into force and the withdrawal would not take effect for one year after that date," the Sierra Club said in a statement, as it joined in opposition to Mr. Trump's declaration.
Former Obama Administration officials also expressed their distress, even before, even before Mr. Trump's decision was made public.
"Does anyone truly believe that he even knows what is in it?" asked former Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes.
"Trump pulling US out of Paris Accord is a historic mistake," said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), as Democratic lawmakers mocked Mr. Trump on social media.
Critics of the President also argued the withdrawal represents a broader effort to dismantle federal policies that emphasize climate change, something that should spark budget battles in the Congress later this year.
"Elections have consequences," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), as he urged his party to make climate change and the environment a big issue in 2018 and 2020.
"Trump has just elevated "the environment" as a political issue in 2018 and 2020. And that definitely is not to his or the GOP's advantage," said political expert Stu Rothenberg.
But for many Republicans, this and other moves by the White House simply make sense, as they argue that American businesses were being shackled with costly pollution regulations, which were almost unattainable.