Yesterday, the United States started the yearlong process of formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, making good on President Trump’s threat nearly 2 and a half years ago to leave a global climate deal he called “onerous” and “severe” to the U.S. economy.

The State Department’s letter to the United Nations means that the United States will stand virtually alone outside the global climate deal on Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election. Yesterday was the first opportunity for the Trump administration to initiate the process, because it marked the third anniversary of the agreement’s taking effect in the United States.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a statement yesterday afternoon, cited the “unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement.”

“The president made a decision a little while back that we would leave the Paris climate accords for the simple reason that it was America that would suffer the straitjacket,” he told Fox Business commentator Lou Dobbs in an interview yesterday night. “It was American jobs that would be lost.”

Paris is mostly voluntary and lacks any enforcement mechanism for countries that fail to meet their goals. But Trump claimed otherwise in his Rose Garden speech on June 1, 2017, asserting that membership would make it impossible for his administration to roll back climate policies implemented under President Obama and would result in U.S. economic policy being made by foreign bureaucrats.

“Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in,” Trump said in 2017.

Trump also held out the possibility of renegotiating Paris to make it fairer. But that proposal was universally rejected by foreign counterparts, and there’s no evidence that Trump administration officials have tried to revive it.

Pompeo tweeted yesterday that the “U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.”

White House officials have hosted events at the last two U.N. climate conferences to highlight the role they say conventional energy can play in reducing emissions and lifting populations out of poverty. But Trump’s withdrawal will likely lessen U.S. negotiating clout when delegations meet this year in Madrid and next year in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss Paris implementation and the next round of pledges.

Longtime opponents of the Paris Agreement cheered the news that the U.S. withdrawal had begun.

“I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Paris Climate Agreement is nothing but empty promises,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

“This is a great day for America, particularly for the future economic success and security of countless Americans,” said Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s EPA transition team and then advocated for a Paris withdrawal from outside the administration during the first months of Trump’s presidency.

‘The climate deal is more about those who are in it’

Climate advocates from other countries greeted yesterday’s news with a collective shrug.

Wendel Trio, who directs Climate Action Network Europe, called the letter a formality.

The European Union is preparing to seat a new European Commission that has promised to enact a Green New Deal and stronger commitments to the Paris Agreement for 2030, irrespective of what is happening across the Atlantic, he said.

“I don’t think Trump’s confirmation that the U.S. is leaving the Paris Agreement is going to negatively affect the current debate on increasing ambition in Europe,” Trio said. “A large majority of the population, and a majority of decisionmakers, does want to increase action in Europe, so this will happen with or without the U.S.”

But he said Europeans are interested in whether Trump will be replaced in 2021 by one of the 17 Democrats running for president, all of whom have said they would return the United States to the Paris Agreement, a process that could be completed in 30 days.

If Trump is elected, Trio said, “that would change things, I am afraid.”

“While we regret the U.S. is going ahead with its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the climate deal is more about those who are in it—including those like Russia, which joined since the U.S. announcement—than those who aren’t,” said Ronny Jumeau, the climate change ambassador for the Seychelles.

U.S. activists and Democrats who hope to challenge Trump next year moved swiftly to condemn the withdrawal.

Jesse Young, a former U.S. climate negotiator under Obama who now works for Oxfam America, called it an “indefensible, pointless, and morally bankrupt capitulation that will weaken the global effort to combat our climate crisis at the very moment we should be mounting our resources to rise to the challenge.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to Twitter to call Trump an “international embarrassment,” while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, released a statement supporting California’s record “as a global leader in the climate fight.”

“The Trump administration should follow California’s lead instead of putting our country on a course that is bound for climate disaster,” Harris said.

Trump’s Department of Justice sued California last month over its choice to link the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program with that of Quebec; it’s the latest salvo in an escalating fight over California’s climate policies.

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a presidential hopeful, said during an appearance on MSNBC that Trump’s retreat on the Paris Agreement affords the next president an opportunity to reassert climate leadership.

“Paris should be viewed as a floor, not a ceiling,” he said.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news