Former President Barack Obama issued a rare rebuke of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord his administration worked several years to broker.
In statement released June 1 by the former president’s office, Obama credited “principled American leadership” and “bold American ambition” for bringing the world together to agree on the deal, which he said would reap benefits in the form of new jobs and industries for the nations that remain.
“I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said.
“But 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.”
CNN reported that the statement was made public in the middle of Trump’s highly anticipated Rose Garden announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the climate pact, which he discredited as disadvantaging the “United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries” in terms of loss of jobs, factories and other economic measures.
The U.S. will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations that are not part of the historic Paris agreement, completed in December 2015, which promised to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, adopt green energy sources and limit rising global temperatures. It was voluntarily adopted by 196 nations.
Each country set its own targets, with the goal of zero emissions by mid century. Obama had pledged to reduce emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Since leaving the White House in January, Obama has seldom spoken out on issues related to his successor’s decisions. In January, however, he did question Trump’s Muslim travel ban order.
Obama was not alone in pushing back against the withdrawal. Trump’s speech was met with condemnation from many international leaders, scientists and companies. Even energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell said they would abide by the deal regardless of the administration’s decision.
“Dozens of our country’s cities have already united to implement measures that combat climate change, so the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is not representative of our nation’s leaders and their communities,” said Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin, who issued a statement along with other members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.