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Report: US poised to begin formal withdrawal from Paris climate accord

The White House will reportedly soon take the first procedural step toward pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, potentially placing the nation on course to exit the deal a day after the 2020 presidential election.

"The Paris accord would have been a giant transfer of American wealth to foreign nations that are responsible for most of the world's pollution," President Donald Trump claimed Oct. 23 at the Shale Insight 2019 conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. "My job is to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris," he said, echoing comments he made in June 2017 announcing his plan to withdraw from the agreement.

Trump delivered his remarks on the same day The New York Times, citing unnamed administration officials, reported that the U.S. is preparing to formally notify the United Nations that it intends to withdraw from the landmark 2015 agreement.

Parties to the Paris Agreement can initiate withdrawal three years after the deal entered into force by first submitting written notice to the United Nations. That starts a year-long countdown during which parties can reverse course or request an even longer exit timeline. According to those rules, the earliest that the U.S. can give notice is Nov. 4, potentially allowing the country to break with the pact a day after the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election.

Trump made withdrawing from the agreement a central campaign promise as a candidate, claiming that the Paris Agreement would cost the American economy billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, Democrats vying to replace him have argued U.S. participation in the agreement is required to address the threat posed by rising global temperatures, with some leading candidates vowing to "immediately" rejoin the accord if elected. While the Paris Agreement outlines a four-year path for parties wishing to exit, the deal's framework does not set a specific timeline for parties wishing to rejoin.

Under the Paris Agreement, 196 countries agreed to a framework that aims to prevent global average temperatures from rising 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels — a level the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes to be the threshold for avoiding catastrophic impacts.

As part of its nationally determined contribution to the pact, the U.S. pledged to lower economywide greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025. While the U.S. electric utility sector reduced CO2 emissions by 28% in 2017 compared to 2005 levels, the country is still not on track to meet its pledge under the Paris Agreement to cut CO2 emissions economywide between 26% and 28% by 2025 from 2005 levels.