Berlin — The United States on Wednesday formally left the Paris Agreement, a global pact forged five years ago to avert the threat of catastrophic climate change. The move, long threatened by President Trump and triggered by his administration a year ago, further isolates the United States in the world but has no immediate impact on international efforts to curb global warming.
Some 189 countries remain committed to the 2015 Paris accord, which aims to keep the increase in average temperatures worldwide "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5C (2.7 F), compared to pre-industrial levels. Another six countries have signed, but haven't ratified it.
Scientists say any rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius could have a devastating impact on large parts of the world, raising sea levels, stoking tropical storms and worsening droughts and floods.
The Paris accord requires countries to set their own voluntary targets for reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The only binding requirement is that nations accurately report on their efforts.
The United States is the world's second biggest emitter after China of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and its contribution to cutting emissions is seen as important, but it isn't alone in the effort. In recent weeks, China, Japan and South Korea have joined the European Union and several other countries in setting national deadlines to stop pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
While the Trump administration has shunned federal measures to cut emissions, states, cities and businesses in the United States have pressed ahead with their own efforts.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he favors restoring the U.S. to the accord.
The presidential election result was still too close to call on Wednesday morning, but exit polls shows that President Trump's voters overwhelmingly pointed to the economy as their top issue, while Biden voters cited racial inequality, the coronavirus pandemic, and the climate at the top of their agendas.
CBS News' Pamela Falk reports that with a, the climate has become a larger issue for some Americans, but regardless who wins the election, the U.S. is out of the Paris climate agreement as of Wednesday morning because the Trump administration notified the other signatory nations one year ago that the U.S. would leave.
The 2015 climate accord will continue, but with a lot less significance without the U.S. on board. The election will determine, however, if the U.S. re-joins the pact in January, as Biden has said he's committed to doing so.
With the U.S. outside the pact, it will be harder for the rest of the world to reach the agreed upon goals.