Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Accord seems to have spurred a wave of climate action. The business community, investors, states, and cities are pushing back against the Trump administration’s reckless disregard for climate change. Prior to Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement a wide range of interests warned the administration to stick with the deal. Trump claims that he withdrew from Paris to protect American companies, cities, and states. However, companies, cities, and states think the president’s decision is doing them more harm than good. This includes hundreds of businesses, 150 cities, and seventeen states. Hawaii is the first state to pass a law in support of the climate agreement.
Many CEOs, governors, mayors, and heads of state think that Trump is misguided. This is not partisanship they have good reason to be concerned that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal will prove harmful to everyone including the country that Trump claims he wants to make great again.
Last year it became clear that businesses support the climate deal. Dozens of corporations including Apple, Morgan Stanley and Royal Dutch Shell all told Trump to stick with Paris. In May, Bloomberg reported business groups, “including 280 investors representing more than $17 trillion in assets released a statement saying climate change must be an urgent priority for all G-20 nations.”
The president has spoken but states and companies don’t agree with his decision. In fact, it is hard to find a thinking individual or organization that shares Trump’s assessment. A diverse coalition is forming and they are rallying in support of the Paris agreement. In what the Washington Post describes as a sharp break with Trump, states, and companies are moving ahead with a coordinated effort in support of the climate deal.
The economics of self-interest are driving many states to break with Trump. States with renewable energy standards in place have no intention of letting them go just because a climate denier occupies the Oval Office. Some governors have indicated that Trump’s decision has pushed them to go the extra mile. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to invest $1.65 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency. California is committed to getting all of its energy needs from renewable sources.
Companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Ford, Google, and Microsoft all contradict Trump’s narrative and see the accord as enhancing American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth. Even energy companies disagree with Trump and support the accord. This includes Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Calpine Corp., Exelon Corp., General Electric, PG&E Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell
Hundreds of major corporations sent a letter to Trump asking him to stick with the Paris agreement. A total of more than 350 businesses including DuPont, General Mills, and Schneider Electric said quitting Paris is bad for business.
The scale of the opportunity warrants interest. We have seen tremendous growth in green tech including prodigious growth in the renewable energy sector. It is estimated that there are $12 trillion worth of untapped business potential through 2030 for sustainability-focused companies.
The reaction from business people connected to the Trump administration was swift and severe. Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, and Robert Iger, chief executive of Disney, both resigned from the president’s advisory council after the announcement. Even Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that Trump’s decision, “is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.”
Some business leaders see Trump’s Paris exit as having unintended positive consequences. At least one business leader has observed that Trump’s decision has accelerated the pace of climate action. As reported by Energy Manager Today, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever said Trump might have, “done us a favor.” He went on to say that, “we’re moving faster now than we otherwise might have been.” Polman told CNBC that he hopes those remaining on the council will champion sustainability from within the White House.
Trump is becoming increasingly irrelevant for many business, cities, and states. America’s allies see Trump as a fool and they are bypassing him altogether. The EU is now working directly with US business leaders and state governors to implement the historic accord’s commitments. China is working directly with California and other states.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel said Trump, “can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet”. The Guardian reports that Merkel indicated her willingness to work with other partners including US companies who were supportive of the deal. Even India has been emboldened by Trump’s abdication. Indian energy minister, Piyush Goyal, said: “India’s resolve to take up the leadership of saving the planet from climate change while others abrogate their leadership.”
In announcing his decision to withdraw Trump said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” People in Pittsburgh were incensed when Trump suggested that he was quitting the accord for their city. Pittsburgh has a thriving green tech economy. As revealed in this video many Pittsburghers did not appreciate the president’s comments.
Finally here is Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s reaction to Trump’s decision in an interview with Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson:
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