One of President Trump’s early moves in office was to announce the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Now, amidst the election, the full exit process is over, making the U.S. the first country to officially leave the Paris Agreement.

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The Paris Agreement, written in 2015, states that all the signatories will work together to limit global warming. The aim is to keep this century’s temperature rise below 2° Celsius, or, ideally, 1.5° Celsius. While the Paris Agreement puts a kind of public moral pressure on countries, it’s a nonbinding agreement that doesn’t legally require its signatories to do anything.

Related: UN report shows global warming could pass 1.5°C limit before 2030

If you’re wondering why it took so long for Trump to get out of the agreement, it’s because those who drafted the Paris accord expected trouble from the U.S. Global climate change pacts have been stymied in the past by warring U.S. politicians. As such, then-President Obama instructed his negotiators to make it hard to back out. The treaty went into effect in November 2016, after at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. No signatory was allowed to give notice for at least three years after the ratification date, and then it had to give a year’s written notice.

“The decision to leave the Paris agreement was wrong when it was announced and it is still wrong today,” said Helen Mountford from the World Resources Institute. “Simply put the U.S. should stay with the other 189 parties to the agreement, not go out alone.”

People around the world wonder if the U.S. withdrawal will inspire other countries to leave the agreement or perhaps strengthen the ties of those that remain. A few countries, notably Kuwait, Russia and Saudi Arabia, have also shown a tendency to dispute climate change science.

While it took four years to extract the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, it will take less time to rejoin if a future American president decides to realign with the international coalition of countries fighting climate change.


Image via Markus Spiske