The U.S. State Department officially informed the United Nations on Friday that it will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Washington, however, left the door open to re-engaging if the terms of the accord "improve."
In a statement, the State Department said the United States will continue to participate in U.N. climate change meetings and negotiations on current and future environmental deals.
"The United States supports a balanced approach to climate policy that lowers emissions while promoting economic growth and ensuring energy security," the department said.
President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris deal in June, claiming the accord would have cost the United States trillions of dollars, killed jobs and hindered the oil, gas, coal and manufacturing industries.
"As the President indicated in his June 1 announcement and subsequently, he is open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the United States can identify terms that are more favorable to it, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers," the State Department said in its press release about the formal notice of withdrawal.
But the State Department's announcement doesn’t formally start the process of the United States getting out of the voluntary agreement, which was agreed upon by nearly 200 nations.
“The State Department is telling the U.N. what the president already told the world on June 1 and it has no legal effect,” said Nigel Purvis, who directed U.S. climate diplomacy during the administrations of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Purvis said countries can’t withdraw from new international agreements, including the Paris climate deal, until three years after they go into effect. Then the process would take a year.
The State Department cited the same timeline, saying it can officially start withdrawing as soon as November 2019. It means the earliest date for the United States to completely withdraw from the agreement is Nov. 4, 2020, around the time of the next U.S. presidential election.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received a "communication” from U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley “expressing the intention of the United States to exercise its right to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as soon as it is eligible to do so under the Agreement, unless it identifies suitable terms for reengagement.”
“The secretary-general welcomes any effort to re-engage in the Paris Agreement by the United States,” he said.
Dujarric reiterated Guterres’ June 1 statement, calling the U.S. decision to withdraw “a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.”
“It is crucial that the United States remains a leader on climate and sustainable development,” Dujarric said. “Climate change is impacting now. He looks forward to engaging with the American government and all other actors in the United States and around the world to build the sustainable future for our children and future generations.”
The Paris agreement aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by two degrees Celsius.
Under former President Barack Obama, the United States had pledged as part of the Paris accord to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 to help slow global warming.
Despite the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, other countries like China and the European Union have reiterated their pledge to continue implementing it.
Some U.S. states, including California, Washington and New York, have vowed to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue engaging in the international climate agreement process.
The United States is the world's second-largest polluting nation in terms of carbon dioxide emissions after China, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.