Trump announced on Thursday that the US would not only withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but investigate a new transaction "on terms that are fair to the United States". It was his solemn duty to protect "America and its citizens", he said.
The agreement was painstakingly negotiated over several years and concluded in Paris two years ago. It is premised on contributions determined by countries themselves, towards collectively- agreed global goals. These targets represent countries' best efforts. A lot of hope was pinned on the multilateral agreement to keep a global temperature increase to well below two degrees Celsius.
"South Africa expresses its profound regret over the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement," the country said in a statement. It had full confidence in the accord.
South Africa's plea comes after widespread international condemnation of the US exit.
It reiterated its "unwavering commitment" to the agreement, joining Germany, France and Italy who stated on Thursday night that the Paris Agreement remained a cornerstone in international co-operation. China and Russia also issued statements confirming their commitment to the deal.
Like the European countries and Canada, South Africa dismissed Trump's claim that the agreement could be renegotiated.
Leaving the Paris agreement however is not a simple operation and could take up to four years, raising the question of whether Trump will still be in office by then. The US ratified the agreement under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama. It will have to jump through a number of legal hoops to step out of the process. The agreement is expected be fully operational by 2020.
South Africa said the international community regarded climate change as the single biggest threat to humanity's well-being, health, and socio-economic development this century.
"Its impacts are widespread, unprecedented and disproportionately burdens to the poorest and most vulnerable."
Due to the extraordinary speed of ratification by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the United States, the agreement came into force far earlier than expected.
"This reflects the scientific consensus on severity of the crisis," the government said.
South Africa lambasted the US for not only abandoning the deal, but also damaging multilateralism, the rule of law, and trust between nations.
"Historically, the US has contributed significantly to global emissions, and therefore has a moral obligation not only to lead in reducing emissions, but to support poorer economies in contributing to the global effort," the South African government said.
"The global effort to curb climate change and address its impacts cannot be postponed. There is an urgent need for action, and as such there is no space for renegotiation."-- Fin24