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Leon Kaye headshot

Corporate Interests Clash Over Paris Climate Agreement

By Leon Kaye

Should the U.S. stay in the Paris climate agreement, or should it go? President Donald Trump previously indicated that he intends to yank the U.S. out of the agreement, though his top advisors are reportedly divided on whether that is a good idea politically, environmentally and economically.

Polls indicate that Americans want to stay in the agreement by an overwhelming margin. But as Trump continues to dismantle the environmental legacy of his predecessor, a political and public relations tug-of-war has emerged between consumer-facing companies that want to stick with Paris and trade groups that insist the U.S. pull out of the agreement.

On one side are the 38 trade groups that co-signed a letter to the president insisting that the U.S. withdraw from the climate treaty negotiated at the December 2015 COP21 climate talks in Paris. These organizations include the American Energy Alliance, which yesterday said that remaining a party to the treaty would “undermine the Trump administration’s efforts to protect American families from unnecessary and burdensome climate regulations.”

Critics pointed out that several of these organizations, including the American Energy Alliance, receive much of their funding from known climate action legislation opponents including the Koch brothers. Another co-signer of the letter, the Heartland Institute, was recently exposed for sending materials to school teachers that questioned the veracity of climate change science.

But many of America's best-known companies and brands are pushing back hard, saying that participation in the Paris climate agreement is actually a net positive for both U.S. businesses and the national economy. In a full-page advertisement that will appear this week in publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, these companies make the case for why they believe the Paris agreement will lead to a more competitive economy, create jobs and reduce long-term business risks.

These businesses represent a wide range of industries such as technology, health care, apparel and consumer packaged goods. And some of America's most recognized brands, including Facebook, Gap, Adobe, Apple, Levi’s, Mars and Unilever, appear as signatories. Insisting that the U.S. remain engaged and lead action when it comes to taking on climate change, the ad implores the Trump White House to “best exercise global leadership and advance U.S. interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort.” The ads were sponsored by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, along with the Boston-based activist investor group Ceres.

Key Trump advisors – including first daughter Ivanka Trump, who is reportedly in favor of leading efforts to take on climate change – are scheduled to discuss the future of U.S. involvement in the Paris climate deal next week. But nothing is certain.

Additional environmental and energy bills, including the repeal of a methane rule passed under the Barack Obama administration, face some opposition by Republicans in Congress; similar pushback surrounded a proposal to expand oil and gas drilling on public lands. As with health care and certainly tax reform, internecine warfare within the GOP could stall the energy and environmental agenda the president pledged during last year’s campaign.

Regardless of whether or not the U.S. leaves the Paris agreement, American climate scientists who doubt their work will find traction on this side of the Atlantic have an ally on the continent. Not only did newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron mention climate change in his short victory speech on Sunday night, he has made it clear that he welcomes such research in France.

"Please, come to France. You are welcome. It's your nation," Macron said in a widely posted message a few weeks after Trump became president -- which began circulating on social media shortly after his win.

Image credit: UN Climate Change/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye