WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s supporters on Friday cast his decision to abandon the world’s climate change pact as a “refreshing” stance for the U.S. that would save jobs, unburden industry and save money.
International leaders and scientists pushed back, pointing to jobs that could be created in green technology and the edge China could be given as a result. China has overtaken the U.S. in transitioning to renewable energy, generating a fifth of its electricity from renewable sources. The U.S. only sources about 13 percent of its electricity from renewables.
In television interviews the morning after Trump’s announcement, Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway, a top White House aide, defended Trump’s decision as a reassertion of America’s sovereignty. They both appeared on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”
Pence called Trump’s decision “refreshing.”
The Paris deal “really put an extraordinary burden on the economy while allowing some countries around the world like China and India to go a decade or more without any accountability for reducing C02 emissions,” Pence said.
He said the deal would have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
“In a very real sense, it was a transfer of wealth from the most powerful economy in the world to other countries around the planet,” Pence said.
Conway made similar remarks in an interview on Fox News, citing “fairness” to American workers and businesses.
Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as a result of the president’s decision because America’s pollution contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal from the Paris accord could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide a year — enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
While Trump and Pence have suggested the possibility of renegotiating the agreement, the leaders of Italy, Germany and France have said that won’t happen. Germany’s environment minister told reporters Friday, “There will be no new deal with the United States” on climate change and predicted global climate will “survive” Trump’s maximum presidential term of eight years.
Barbara Hendricks said other countries will fill the leadership void left by the United States, but none will be expected to make up the shortfall in emissions reductions caused by Washington’s exit.
Meanwhile, African nations are protesting Trump’s decision. South Africa’s government calls the U.S. pullout “an abdication of global responsibility.”
In announcing his decision, Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” By abandoning the world’s chief effort to slow the tide of planetary warming, Trump was fulfilling a top campaign pledge after weeks of building up suspense over his decision.
The White House indicated it would follow the lengthy exit process outlined in the deal. That means the U.S. would remain in the agreement, at least formally, for another three-and-a-half years, ensuring the issue remains alive in the next presidential election.
However, Trump declared, emphasizing every word: “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord.”
He is breaking from many of America’s staunchest allies, who have expressed alarm about the decision. Several of his top aides also opposed the action, including his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. had agreed under the accord to reduce polluting emissions by more than a quarter below 2005 levels by 2025. But the national targets are voluntary, leaving room for the U.S. and the nearly 200 other countries in the agreement to alter their commitments.
At home, the U.S. Conference of Mayors strongly opposed the decision and said the nation’s mayors will continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Responding to Trump’s pointing to his city, Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto called the decision “disastrous for our planet, for cities such as Pittsburgh,” and a step that “has made America weaker and the world less safe.”
In a rare statement on his successor’s policies, Obama said, “Even in the absence of American leadership, even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I’m confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
The immediate impact of Trump’s move could be largely symbolic. The White House said the U.S. will stop contributing to the United Nations Green Climate Fund and will stop reporting carbon data as required by the Paris accord, although domestic regulations require that reporting anyway. The decision has no direct impact on major U.S. regulations on power plants and car rules currently aimed at reducing carbon emissions, although those are currently under review by Trump as well.
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” Trump said.
Congressional Republicans applauded the decision, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky saying Trump had “put families and jobs ahead of left-wing ideology and should be commended.”
But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called it “a stunning abdication of American leadership and a grave threat to our planet’s future.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had urged Trump to stay in the Paris deal, did not attend the ceremony, nor did Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, both close advisers to the president who supported staying in the agreement. A White House official said the couple instead attended service at synagogue for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
Business investors seemed pleased, with stock prices, already up for the day, bumping higher as he spoke and the Dow Jones industrial average rising 135 points for the day.
The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon, following only China. Beijing, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris accord, recently canceling construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and investing billions in massive wind and solar projects.