The US has informed the United Nations (UN) that it will withdraw from the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement but would still take part in negotiations to protect its own interests.
The formal notification to the UN comes two months after President Donald Trump announced his intention to leave the accord, fulfilling a longtime campaign promise and rejecting appeals from other world leaders to stay in the deal.
But according to the terms of the pact, the US cannot fully withdraw until November 4, 2020, which would be a day after the next presidential election is held in the US. This means the next US president can still rejoin the agreement.
Reacting to the US' notification, UN chief Antonio Guterres urged it to re-engage with the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
The Paris climate deal aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by 2 degrees Celsius since the start of the industrial age. The US is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.
Trump drew international condemnation in June when he first announced the US intention to withdraw. He said the deal "punished" the US and would cost millions of American jobs.
The State Department on Friday said that the US submitted a communication to the UN, in its capacity as a depositary for the Paris agreement, regarding the US intent to withdraw from it as soon as it is eligible to do so.
As the president indicated in his June 1 announcement and subsequently, he is open to re-engaging with the agreement if the US can identify terms that are more favourable to it, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers, it said in a statement.
The US supports a balanced approach to climate policy that lowers emissions while promoting economic growth and ensuring energy security, it said.
"We will continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and technology breakthroughs, and work with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in many nationally determined contributions," the state department said.
However, the US will continue to participate in international climate change negotiations and meetings, including the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP-23) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to protect US interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration, it said.
"Such participation will include ongoing negotiations related to guidance for implementing the Paris agreement," it added.
The UN spokesperson, however, said that UN Secretary- General Guterres "welcomes any effort to re-engage in the Paris Agreement by the United States".
"The secretary-general received, in his capacity as Depositary of the Paris Agreement, a communication from the Permanent Representative of the US expressing the intention of the US 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 re-engagement," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
"It is crucial that the US remains a leader on climate and sustainable development. Climate change is impacting now," Dujarric said, adding that the UN Chief 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.