KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
During the campaign, President Trump vowed to, quote, "cancel U.S. participation" in an historic international agreement, the Paris climate accord. Today, he did it.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
MCEVERS: The Paris Agreement sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit rising global temperatures. Nearly 200 countries are committed to it. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with us now from the White House. And Mara, what was the president's rationale in making this move?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The president's rationale was America First. He said he was keeping his campaign promise. This was all about jobs and the economy. He said the Paris Agreement would be bad for American workers. He never said that he believed in the science of climate change, but he did seem to acknowledge that it was real when he said in his remarks today that even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, it would still only produce a very tiny reduction in global temperature. But for the most part, his speech portrayed the U.S. as a victim, a victim of this agreement and of other countries. Here's a little bit of what he said.
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TRUMP: The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.
LIASSON: So that's U.S. as a victim, not a leader. This is the kind of full-throated isolationist, populist language we really haven't heard since that American carnage inaugural address. I think this is the single most important decision the president has taken yet. He's at odds with the last four presidents on this issue. This is the American Brexit.
MCEVERS: What are the practical effects of withdrawing from this agreement, though, since the administration has already pulled back on many of the regulations that would allow the U.S. to be in agreement with the accord?
LIASSON: That's true. But pulling out says something important about how America views its place in the world. As the president said today, I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, Pa., not Paris, France. So he allied himself with his Rust Belt base and really against everyone else, not just the majority of public opinion in the U.S. but the rest of the world.
The only country that hasn't been part of this agreement is Syria, who's in the midst of a civil war. Even Nicaragua is expected to join. And how this affects U.S. relations with our allies on other issues like trade and defense will be another one - a practical effect that remains to be seen.
MCEVERS: Behind the scenes, I understand there was a fierce lobbying campaign to sway the president. Tell us about that.
LIASSON: That's right. Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt, the EPA director and the fossil fuel industry, were arrayed against the president's daughter, Ivanka, the secretary of state, the secretary of energy and really the rest of the American business community, including the CEO of companies like ExxonMobil. So this was a big win for the nationalist wing of the White House, and they have now prevailed on the core issue of Trump's agenda - trade, immigration and now climate change.
MCEVERS: Now, how does this pullout actually work? What happens next?
LIASSON: Well, it - we can't pull out completely till November 2020. That is the terms of the agreement. The White House advisers say the president is sincere about wanting to renegotiate the deal if he can, although they've been vague about what he wants. That of course would depend on the rest of the countries in the world wanting to renegotiate. And today, France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement saying the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated.
MCEVERS: NPR's Mara Liasson at the White House, thank you very much.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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