Big businesses back Paris climate agreement

Prominent American companies are lobbying US president Donald Trump to keep the United States in the Paris climate change accord, including energy companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil. They argue that the agreement will help them remain competitive. John Dyer reports from Boston.

Some of the largest companies in the United States have taken out a full-page ad in three major newspapers calling on President Trump to keep America in the Paris climate agreement. (Image credit: gckwolfe, flickr/Creative Commons)

Large companies in the United States want to prevent President Donald Trump from doing something stupid. In their opinion, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement would be a major blow to the country’s economy. Staying would give them the opportunity to participate in the international competition for technological innovation and new forms of energy.

To voice their concern, 24 companies have publicly appealing to the president in the form of a full-page ad in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, asking him not to withdraw from the Paris climate change accord.

Staying ahead in the innovation game

Energy companies like ExxonMobil want to boost natural gas sales at the expense of Trump’s beloved coal. Technology companies like Apple want to push innovation and sustainable products. Investors and financial companies like Morgan Stanley want to boost new technologies and renewable energy that might deliver hefty returns.

“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 on climate change,” said the ad.

Signed by foreign and American giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, the Hartford insurance company, Levi Strauss clothier, Northeastern utility PG&E, the ad also raises the spectre of protectionism among countries that signed the Paris agreement.

“By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets,” they wrote. “Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to them and could expose us to retaliatory measures.”

Chinese-perpetrated ‘hoax’

The ad is among a host of efforts that come after Trump left meetings with Group of Seven leaders last weekend without pledging to support the accord. Instead, Trump said he would decide this week.

Reached in 2015 and signed by 195 countries, the accord aims to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Under the deal, the US has pledged to reduce its emissions by as much as 28 per cent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels.

Trump reportedly has already made up his mind to quit the deal. The Republican real estate mogul and ex-reality show television star has said in the past that climate change is a Chinese-perpetrated “hoax” and the Paris accord was “bad.”

One of his top advisors, his left-leaning son-in-law Jared Kushner, has also reportedly dropped his support for the accord as he has been struggling with a federal investigation into his attempts to create a private communications channel to Russian officials. The probe is part of a larger investigation into Trump’s connections to the Kremlin.

Exxon CEO’s personal appeal

In a personal letter to the president, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods recently wrote that quitting the Paris deal would mean giving up “a seat at the negotiating table to ensure a level playing field”.

The US is rich in “abundant low-carbon resources such as natural gas” and “innovative private industries including the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors,” wrote Woods. An expansion of natural gas plants and closures of coal-fired plants have already helped the American energy sector decrease carbon emissions by 14 per cent in the ten years ending in 2016, he added.

Institutional investors who managed a total of more than USD 15 trillion also recently wrote a letter to the White House urging Trump to embrace the accord.

“As long-term institutional investors, we believe that the mitigation of climate change is essential for the safeguarding of our investments,” said the letter signed by the California Public Employees Retirement System and 213 other big managers.

Other coal companies have also called on Trump to remain in the agreement, saying like Exxon that leaving it would make it impossible for the US to influence negotiations over the deal in future years. Last month, Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall made that argument in an open letter to the White House.

“By remaining in the Paris Agreement, albeit with a much different pledge on emissions, you can help shape a more rational international approach to climate policy,” Marshall wrote.

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