Chinese leader Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron have declared that the Paris climate pact is “irreversible”, after the United States formally withdrew from the accord this week.

The two leaders reaffirm “their firm support for the Paris accord which they consider as an irreversible process and a compass for strong action on climate”, said a joint statement released after they held talks in Beijing.

On Monday, the Trump administration said it filed paperwork to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the first formal step in a one-year process to exit the pact.

Once it exits, the United States – the top historic greenhouse gas emitter and leading oil and gas producer – will become the only country outside the accord.

The US State Department’s letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres starts the clock on a process that will be complete one day after the 2020 US presidential election.

All the top Democratic presidential contenders seeking to unseat Mr Trump have promised to re-engage in the Paris Agreement if they win.

The Obama administration had signed the United States onto the 2015 pact, promising a 26-28% cut in US greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels.

Mr Trump campaigned on a promise to rescind that pledge, saying it would hurt the US economy while leaving other big polluters like China to increase emissions. He was bound by UN rules to wait until 4 November 2019, to file exit papers.

Mr Trump has already moved, however, to unwind a slew of Obama-era rules limiting emissions – including from the electricity industry, vehicles and the oil and gas drilling sector.

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced this week that it planned to ease Obama-era rules on toxic coal ash.

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