After months of speculation, President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the United States will exit the Paris Agreement.
"I'm fighting every day for the great people of this country," Trump said on Thursday afternoon from the White House Rose Garden. "Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord."
The announcement puts to rest a suspenseful back-and-forth fit for a reality show star, where leaks and official statements show that Trump spent months waffling whether the U.S. should abandon the climate accord.
The decision, which was made before the president has appointed a single expert to his senior science council, links the U.S. with Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not participating in the global accord. Nicaragua refused to sign the agreement because it wasn't ambitious enough, and Syria, where the deadliest conflict of the 21st century has ravaged on for seven years, had other priorities when the Paris Agreement came together.
Trump repeatedly promised to "cancel" the accord on the campaign trail, calling it a "bad deal" for Americans. But while the White House has framed an exit from the agreement as being in line with its "America first" policy, leaving could actually wind up weakening the U.S. economy and security.
Speaking on Thursday, Trump also expressed his willingness to renegotiate a new Paris Agreement, or create a new accord, one that he said would include "terms that are fair to the United States, its business, its workers, its people, its taxpayers."
"The bottom line is that the Paris accord is unfair at the highest level to the United States," he added.
The announcement has left environmentalists shaking their heads. "Make no mistake: This is a reckless decision that is bad for the world and even worse for the United States," Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement. "President Trump is walking away from one of the most hard fought, urgent, and popular global achievements in recent memory."
Still, a clean break from the U.S. could, in fact, be the best thing for the agreement itself. The Paris Agreement is the pinky promise of climate deals—any commitments are voluntary and non-binding, which means that the accord relies on countries to self-police. Giving a country that refuses to even try to meet its pledges a seat at the climate negotiations table could do more to undermine the agreement than the absence of one of the world's top emitters.