The biggest news of the week, so far, has been President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the landmark Paris Agreement. And while politicians’ support or condemnation of the withdrawal is predictably split along party lines, one surprising consensus has emerged: The business world, including the corporations that run basically everything, really wish we would stay in.
The decision, which Trump announced in a Rose Garden speech yesterday, starts the several-year process for taking the U.S. out of the international agreement, also called the Paris Climate Accord.
The agreement was finalized in Paris (hence the name) in 2015. 195 nations — basically, the entire world save two — have signed on to the non-binding accord, agreeing to take voluntary steps to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change.
NPR has a full, easy-to-read explainer of the terms the nations all agreed to. Basically, it’s a voluntary pledge to do something by 2020, and then work toward a global goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by some vague “mid-century” date.
However, the President decided the U.S. should not remain in the planet-wide agreement.
“As of today,” he said in his speech yesterday, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
The D.C. rumor mill had signaled for a while that this withdrawal was probably coming, and so businesses began to stake out their positions ahead of the formal speech. Earlier in May, the CEOs for 30 major corporations signed an open letter all but begging the administration to leave well enough alone.
Why? Not out of any deep moral sentiment; business is business. Instead, staying in the agreement, they argue, is what’s best for capitalism.
“Based on our vast experience doing business all over the world,” the CEOs write, “we believe there is strong potential for negative trade implications if the United States exits from the Paris Agreement.”
“Our business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced response to reducing global GHG emissions. The Paris Agreement gives us that flexible framework to manage climate change while providing a smooth transition for business.”
The letter wasn’t signed by a bunch of startups and newbies, but rather by the biggest names in banking, manufacturing, media, and agriculture including: 3M, Dow Chemical, Bank of America, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Johnson & Johnson, Tesla, Coca-Cola, JP Morgan Chase, Unilever, Morgan Stanley, and Disney, among others.
After the announcement was made, several CEOs voiced their disappointment and vowed that their businesses would continue to act believing that climate change is a real threat.
Several took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt Tweeted, “Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
He was joined by Tesla’s Elon Musk, who Tweeted that the withdrawal was enough to make him resign from Presidential advisory councils he sits on.
“Climate change is real,” Musk said. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein made his first-ever Tweet yesterday, and used it to voice disappointment with the administration’s choice: “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world,” he Tweeted.
The major players in the tech world also nearly universally condemned the choice.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, like many others, took to Twitter to make a statement, saying, “Disappointed with today’s decision. Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.”
Microsoft’s Brad Smith said nearly the same, also on Twitter, saying, “We’re disappointed with the decision to exit the Paris Agreement. Microsoft remains committed to doing our part to achieve its goals.”
Amazon joined the fray in a four-part Tweetstorm from the company’s official news account saying, “Amazon continues to support the Paris climate agreement and action on climate change. We believe that robust clean energy and climate policies can support American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth.”
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, of course, posted his statement on Facebook, for obvious reasons.
“Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children’s future at risk,” Zuck posted. “Stopping climate change is something we can only do as a global community, and we have to act together before it’s too late.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook was even more blunt in a company-wide email to employees.
“I know many of you share my disappointment with the White House’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement,” Cook wrote.
After outlining steps Apple is currently taking toward sustainability, Cook concluded, “Climate change is real and we all share a responsibility to fight it. … Our mission has always been to leave the world better than we found it. We will never waver, because we know that future generations depend on us.”
And lest you think it’s just the new, modern vanguard of tech businesses objecting, those CEOs were joined by stalwarts Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, and Exxon Mobil — none of which exactly enjoy public reputations for environmental friendliness.
But for public-facing condemnation, the most visible has been The Weather Channel.
Although the cable network itself is still owned by a consortium of NBCUniversal and investment groups, since 2016 its website, Weather.com, has been owned by IBM. And that website has been basically as scathing as it is possible for website layout to be. While the formal announcement was taking place yesterday, this was how it looked:
And it hasn’t eased up today. Folks seeking weather forecasts are now greeted with a wall full of climate change proof, news, and protests front and center: