President Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate change agreement will take over three years to implement under the terms of the United Nations, taking the process of withdrawal well into the next presidential election cycle.
At the same time, he plans to renegotiate the terms of the U.S.'s involvement in the climate pact, but that pledge may be a nonstarter.
It is unclear how he plans to initiate another part of his Paris exit strategy, which he said in the Rose Garden on Thursday would involve reaching out to Democrats to contribute to the renegotiations.
"So if the obstructionists want to get together with me, let's make them non-obstructionists," Trump said to applause. "We will all sit down, and we will get back into the deal."
Trump explained that the Democrats' opinions on Trump's renegotiation strategy will have to coincide with what he considers a fair deal under any climate agreement. He views the climate agreement to be anathema to his pro-growth America First agenda, citing an industry funded study that showed the economy would lose $3 trillion in GDP and 6.5 million industrial sector jobs by 2040.
"I'm willing to immediately work with Democratic leaders to either negotiate our way back into Paris, under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers, or to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers," Trump said.
Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York did not appear too open to the idea, calling the notion of renegotiating the deal a "fig leaf" and vowing to do everything in his power to prevent Trump from undoing the U.S.'s commitment to the deal.
"If you truly believe in improving the Paris Agreement, you don't back out — you work with our allies and partners around the world," Schumer said. "Democrats will do everything we can to undo what President Trump has done and prevent further regression; I seriously hope the president reconsiders this awful decision."
The U.N. renegotiations may take some time if Trump is serious about actually going to the United Nations to submit terms he believes are fitting with his pro-growth strategy.
But Trump did seem to already place limits on how far he is willing to go on a new agreement. "We will start to negotiate and see if we can make a deal that is fair," he said. "And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine."
Trump said the negotiations would be "to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its people, its taxpayers."
An entirely new agreement would seem to be a nonstarter on the basis of the fact that the U.N. agreement is a global pact, not a simple deal between two countries, especially when the result would be weakening the U.S.'s overall contribution.
The U.N. does not seem too concerned with the U.S. leaving the pact, issuing a statement Thursday that suggested it is ready to cede leadership on the agreement to the European Union and China.
Erik Solheim, the U.N.'s environment chief, said he is willing to "work with everyone willing to make a difference," adding "climate action is not a burden, but an unprecedented opportunity."
Solheim explained that Trump's decision "in no way brings an end to this unstoppable effort." He said China, India and the European Union "are already showing strong leadership," along with 190 nations that are determined "to work with them to protect this and future generations." The EU and China are wrapping up a summit on Friday where they will issue a joint statement reiterating their commitment to Paris in the wake of Trump's decision to exit from the agreement.
Trump spoke to global leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday, who told him the Paris deal could not be renegotiated.
Solheim added that a "single political decision will not derail this unparalleled effort," while urging "all parties to redouble their efforts."
In the meantime, Trump is ordering the U.S. government to immediately cease all programs devoted to meeting its obligations under the Paris deal, including the rescinding of the primary contractual document submitted by the previous administration to the U.N., which is called the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.
"As of today, the U.S. will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country," he said. "This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund, which is costing the United States a vast fortune."
Nikki Haley, the president's ambassador to the U.N., could be the first to begin implementing Trump's order to end the INDC by beginning the process of withdrawing the document at U.N. headquarters in New York.
"We care as much about the climate as we do about jobs — there's a way to balance it," Haley told Fox News on the eve before Trump's announcement.
At the same time, the administration is supporting other multicountry agreements on technology development that were set up under the Obama administration to help meet the goals of the Paris agreement.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry went to China on Thursday to participate in a Mission Innovation summit in China. The meeting is the second of its kind after the Mission Innovation agreement was signed by 22 nations to drive forward clean-energy research and development to achieve the goals under the Paris accord. Perry is also participating in a Clean Energy Ministerial meeting with the Chinese before going to Japan.