The United States has formally notified the United Nations of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
The notification begins a one-year process of exiting the global climate change accord, culminating the day after the 2020 US election.
The agreement brought together 188 nations to combat climate change.
Announcing the plan last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the agreement had imposed an “unfair economic burden” on the United States.
The Paris agreement committed the US and 187 other countries to keeping rising global temperatures below 2C above pre-industrial levels and attempting to limit them even more, to a 1.5C rise.
The decision to withdraw – taken by President Donald Trump – made the US the world’s sole non-signatory and prompted high-level efforts by the European Union to keep the agreement on track.
The US issued its formal notification on the first day it was possible to do so, firing the starting gun on the long process of extricating the country from the 2015 agreement. The withdrawal is still subject to the outcome of next year’s US presidential election – if Mr Trump loses, the winner may decide to change course.
But scientists and environmentalists fear the effect the Trump administration will have on climate protections in the meantime. It has conducted what critics have called a seek-and-destroy mission against US environmental legislation.
Mr Trump promised to turn the US into an energy superpower, and has attempted to sweep away a raft of pollution legislation to reduce the cost of producing gas, oil and coal. He characterised former US President Barack Obama’s environmental clean-up plans as a war on American energy.
But reports suggest the Trump administration made no effort to renegotiate the Paris agreement, waiting instead until the first possible day to exit.
The US contributes about 15% of global emissions of carbon, but it is also a significant source of finance and technology for developing countries in their efforts to fight rising temperatures.