President Donald Trump is getting a lot of advice about the Paris Agreement on climate change lately, though it remains uncertain what he’ll do with it. A group of more than a dozen companies, including some power industry big hitters, sent a letter April 26 to the president calling for continued involvement in the agreement.
Administration Appears Divided
Trump’s Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, suggested April 25 during a presentation at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York that the U.S. should stay in the agreement, though he said it should be renegotiated.
Also April 25, Bloomberg revealed that it had obtained a State Department memo stating that in the agreement, “legal obligations are relatively few and are generally process-oriented.” The memo also notes that the agreement does not require any specific domestic actions and allows nations to amend their goals.
Under the agreement, the U.S. pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Trump has stated that the agreement is a bad deal for the nation.
Businesses Lobby in Favor of Agreement
According to the letter sent to Trump April 26, several large companies disagree with the president’s appraisal of the deal.
“As businesses concerned with the well-being of our customers, our investors, our communities, and our suppliers, we are strengthening our climate resilience, and we are investing in renewables, efficiency, nuclear, biofuels, carbon capture, sequestration, and other innovative technologies that can help achieve a clean energy transition. For this transition to succeed, however, governments must lead as well. We urge that the United States remain a party to the Paris Agreement, work constructively with other nations to implement the agreement, and work to strengthen international support for a broad range of innovative technologies,” the companies wrote.
The letter is signed by National Grid, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and Schneider Electric, as well as BP, DuPont, General Mills, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Novartis Corp., Shell, Unilever, and Walmart.
The businesses told the president that companies in the U.S. benefit from continued national involvement as participation in the agreement will strengthen competitiveness, support sound investment, create jobs, minimize the cost of reaching environmental objectives, and reduce business risk.
“We believe that as other countries invest in advanced technologies and move forward with the Paris Agreement, the United States can best exercise global leadership and advance U.S. interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort,” the letter says.
Withdrawal Not as Easy as It Sounds
The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2016 and is the first international climate agreement to apply to developing nations as well as developed nations. Under the leadership of former President Barack Obama, the U.S. joined the agreement in September 2016, just a few months before the agreement entered into force in November 2016.
When the agreement entered into force, a four-year lag period for withdrawal from the agreement began, significantly complicating the path for Trump to make good on his campaign promise. It has been widely speculated that Trump may have to drop out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—the treaty under which the agreement was adopted—all together to avoid U.S. participation in the deal.
Trump’s advisors were expected to meet at the White House to discuss the nation’s continued involved in the agreement on April 18, but the meeting was postponed.
As of April 26, 2017, 144 of the 197 parties to the UNFCCC have ratified the agreement.
—Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.