PARIS (AFP) - European leaders reacted with anger and defiance after President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the United States, the world's second biggest carbon emitter, was quitting the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
With France's Emmanuel Macron taking the lead, they lashed Trump's decision as misguided and vowed to defend an accord they portrayed as crucial for the planet's future.
In an exceptional step, continental Europe's three biggest economies - Germany, France and Italy - issued a joint statement to criticise Trump's move and slap away his offer of renegotiating the deal.
"We note the United States' decision with regret," they said, describing the carbon-curbing accord as "a vital tool for our planet, our societies and our economies."
"We are firmly convinced that the agreement cannot be renegotiated," they added, referring to part of the Trump announcement which said Washington was open to negotiating a new agreement.
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Union's executive Commission, lashed Trump's decision as "seriously wrong."
The body's commissioner for climate action and energy Miguel Arias Canete also pledged continued "global leadership" on climate change.
"The Paris Agreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change," he said in a statement.
"Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable."
Trump said America was "getting out" of a deal he said imposed "draconian" burdens costing millions of US jobs and billions of dollars. The pact was "very unfair" to the United States and beneficial to other major polluters like China and India, the president claimed.
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed "regret" at the decision, and called for a continuation of "climate policies which preserve our world."
Seven Social Democratic ministers in her coalition government said the United States "is harming itself, we Europeans and all the people of the world."
In France, the Elysee presidential palace said newly-elected leader Macron had phoned Trump to say that "nothing was negotiable" in the Paris agreement.
France and the United States "would continue to work together," but not on climate change, the presidential office said.
In a TV broadcast made both in French and English, Macron said he believed that Trump had made a historic mistake, and invited frustrated US climate scientists and entrepreneurs to come and work in France.
"They will find in France a second homeland," he said. "I call on them, come and work here with us, to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment."
And cheekily adapting the nationalist slogan used by Trump on his election campaign trail, Macron urged defenders of the climate to "make our planet great again."
Paris city hall meanwhile said it would illuminate its building in green on Thursday "in a sign of disapproval" of Trump's announcement and to recall the determination of cities around the world to fight climate change.
In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Trump that the climate accord was a safety net for future generations, Downing Street said.
"The Paris Agreement provides the right global framework for protecting the prosperity and security of future generations, while keeping energy affordable and secure for our citizens and businesses," May told Trump by phone, it said in a statement.
Among environmental groups, Climate Action Network said the withdrawal "signals that the Trump Administration is in total discord with both reality and the rest of the world."
"Unfortunately, the first to suffer from this injudicious decision is the American people," the group, an alliance of climate activists, said.
"This action is totally contrary to their best interests: their health, security, food supply, jobs and future."
Friends of the Earth International said "pulling out of the Paris Agreement would make the US a rogue state on climate change. The rest of the world cannot let the US drag it down."
Oxfam France branded the decision as "shameful and irresponsible, scorning people and world peace."
Among the scientific community, Britain's prestigious Royal Society said Trump's decision would hamper US innovation in cleaner technology.
"The future is in newer, cleaner and renewable technologies, not in fossil fuels," said the society's president, Venki Ramakrishnan.
"Such technologies will also help in our fight against air pollution and ensure greater energy security globally. President Trump is not putting America first, he is tethering it to the past."