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US businesses at odds with Trump

June 2, 2017

Reactions from American companies to Washington's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement have been marked by widespread frustration, with many corporate leaders distancing themselves from Trump's decision.

USA Trump verkündet Ausstieg aus Pariser Klimaschutzabkommen
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

In intial statements, US corporate heads and business leaders have largely rejected Donald Trump's portrayal of his decision as a needed corrective to unfair climate rules.

They often argued that the structural shift in world energy markets towards renewables and away from fossil fuels would continue, regardless of the US withdrawal. Even US oil majors reiterated their support for the endangered agreement.

Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said her company "supports continuing with the Paris Agreement as it offers a first step towards a global framework," adding that the accord aligned with the company's own policy on carbon emissions.

An Exxon spokesman told the news agency AFP that the 2015 accord was "critical" given the rising emissions from India and China. "It's the first major international accord to address climate change that includes emissions reduction pledges from both developed and developing economies," he said. "We believe that the United States is well positioned to compete within the framework of the Paris agreement."

Automaker General Motors(GM) also said the White House's decision would not lessen its resolve on the climate. "GM will not waver from our commitment to the environment and our position on climate change has not changed," the company said in a statement, which adds that GM remained "committed to creating a better environment."

Tech sector frustrations

Tesla founder Elon Musk confirmed on Thursday that he would quit White House advisory councils on business in protest. "Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," Musk wrote on Twitter shortly after Trump's announcement.

Disney chief Robert Iger followed suit, saying he was resigning from the panels "as a matter of principle."

Other tech and sector representatives expressed frustration with the White House's decision and pledged to continue working to combat global warming.

Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple said in an internal email that he had previously tried to persuade President Trump to keep the US in the agreement. "But it wasn't enough . . . I want to reassure you that today's developments will have no impact on Apple's efforts to protect the environment," he added.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, noted that climate change can only be stopped through a global effort. "Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children's future at risk."

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) was equally scathing. "This is clearly disappointing, and a setback for America's leadership in the world," ITI President Dean Garfield said in a statement. "Despite this, the tech industry's determination to innovate and problem-solve for the threats posed by climate change and generate clean energy opportunities that create jobs and grow our economy remains unchanged."

On Wednesday, a group of major US companies including Apple, Facebook, Gap, Google and Unilever signed off on a plea for the US to keep participating in the climate deal. "Dear President Trump, as some of the largest companies based or operating in the United States, we strongly urge you to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement," the letter read.

'Old industry' support

Some were supportive though, particularly the coal industry which seems likely to be the most direct beneficiary of Trumps new climate policy.

Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy applauded President Trump's "steadfast leadership, and his delivery on this important campaign commitment."

Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in a statement: "The previous administration volunteered to meet one of the most stringent goals of any country in the world, while many other countries do far less to reduce their emissions." Bailey also argued that meeting the accord's goals would have led to more regulations, higher energy prices, and dependence on less reliable energy sources in the US.

The US Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby that had long criticized the prior Obama administration's energy policies, said had it had not taken a position on the Paris Agreement but favored policies that both promoted energy production and protected the environment.

 uhe/nz (Reuters, dpa, AFP)