American companies, responsible investment campaigners and city mayors have voiced their support for the Paris climate change agreement after President Donald Trump confirmed he would withdraw the US from the accord. During his election campaign last year Trump had suggested scepticism about climate change and efforts made by the Obama administration to move the US to generating more of its energy from renewables.

In his statement at the White House Trump said: ” In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord  but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.  So we’re getting out.  But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.”

Trump claimed his decision would put America First and that being part of the agreement would hurt the US economy and lead to job losses: “Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025 according to the National Economic Research Associates.”

Trump Paris climate change agreement
Business is disappointed with President Trump’s decision to withdraw US from Paris agreement

Furthermore Trump claimed that the US was taking an unfair amount of the burden of reducing global carbon emissions: “For example, under the agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years — 13.  They can do whatever they want for 13 years.  Not us.  India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.  There are many other examples.  But the bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States.”

Trump’s final argument against the agreement was that after all the efforts and economic hardship the US would have to endure there would actually be very little impact on climate change.

Mindy Lubber chief executive of US sustainability pressure group, Ceres, said: “In the global race to create jobs and strengthen our economy, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement is not putting America first – it’s putting America last.”

She added: “Tackling climate change presents one of greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century for America. Ignoring the new low-carbon global economy and instead hitching our future to outdated fossil fuel investments is a huge blow to American competitiveness and a major threat to the nation’s economic and job growth.

While the US sits on the sidelines, China and the more than 195 other nations that are parties to the Paris Climate Agreement will race ahead to spur innovation, investments and new jobs. The US now joins only two other nations – Syria and Nicaragua – that are not members of the Paris Agreement.”

Lubber also said that his decision ignored calls from global investors and companies for the US to remain in the Paris agreement. Last month global investors wrote to all the G7 and G20 leaders calling for them to support the agreement and a group of major companies including Apple, Google, National Grid, Morgan Stanley and Unilever, signed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times which urged President Trump to keep the US in the agreement.

Directly responding to Trump’s statement Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google tweeted: “Disappointed with today’s decision. Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.”

Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of investment bank Goldman Sachs tweeted, “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.

Meanwhile Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney and Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX  both stepped down from presidential advisory councils in response to Trump’s decision. Musk tweeted: “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”

City mayors across the world have signed up to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy which commits them to tackling climate change. US mayors have said they will continue to honour the Paris Agreement. In his statement Trump had said he needed to represent the voters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania not Paris, France. The Democrat mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, took issue with this indicating that its city’s voters had backed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election last year.

Peduto said: “In Pittsburgh, we’ve rebuilt our economy on the future and our people, not on the past. We are improving the efficiency of buildings; using smart infrastructure to reduce emissions; supporting new mobility solutions like bike share, bus rapid transit, and shared rides to reduce our reliance on personal automobiles; and has world class innovation happening by the likes of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and many industry partners. 

Further, Pittsburgh and other cities know that fighting climate change will not only save our planet, but save lives. Pittsburgh has been engaged in resilience planning since 2015 and climate change and extreme weather were identified as the number one shock facing us. Fighting for the Paris accords is my duty, and that of mayors across the United States, who are standing together in defiance of President Trump’s reckless decision. If you are a mayor and not addressing shifts in changing weather patterns or preparing for the impacts of climate change you aren’t doing your job. What is our job is preparing our cities for the future, and building opportunities and productive and safe lives for those we serve.” 

The statement from Trump came as China and the EU were meeting for its 19th bilateral summit.  The agenda included tackling climate change and implementing the Paris Agreement. Many now believe that China will be able to take the lead in the global fight against climate change.

Meanwhile, responsible investment campaigners led by Ceres celebrated the majority support received for a climate-change related shareholder resolution at ExxonMobil’s AGM this week (31st May). The resolution calling on the oil and gas giant to assess and disclose how it is preparing its business for the transition to a low-carbon future received 62% support. While a resolution like this is not legally binding on the company in the US investors see this putting pressure on ExxonMobil to become more responsive to demands to show it is managing a transition to a low carbon future.

The vote at ExxonMobil followed votes at Occidental Petroleum which won 67% support and at the AGM of natural gas provider PPL which received 57% backing. Ceres said that as recently as 2015 resolutions like these averaged 23 percent support but it said that now the very largest investors in the world were challenging the companies representing some of their biggest holdings on this issue.

Last Updated: 2 June 2017


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