Despite objections from world leaders, big business, Democrats, and people within his party and family, President Donald Trump announced Thursday he’s removing the U.S. from the historic Paris Climate Accord.
It means the U.S. will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not participating, and Nicaragua didn’t join because officials didn’t think the agreement went far enough to protect the environment.
"I was elected to serve the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris," Trump said unapologetically during a press conference on the White House grounds.
A letter signed by 25 major U.S. firms, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Gap, Microsoft and Unilever, ran as a full-page ad in Washington, D.C. newspapers on Thursday urging Trump to honor the treaty. They made an economic argument for abiding by the treaty.
"By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth," the letter noted. "U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets."
The Paris agreement was reached in December 2015 among 195 countries and took effect in November 2016. The accord was the first of its kind addressing global warming to be signed, ratified and put into force. Its intent was to keep the planet from rising above pre-industrial averages to two degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. The administration of President Barack Obama agreed to reduce emissions to 26% to 28% of 2005 levels by 2025, about about 1.6 billion tons.
Most of Arkansas’ congressional delegation supported the president’s move. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has been critical of the agreement in the past.
“I’m more worried about what people pay for electricity in Paris, Ark., than I am the Paris Climate Accord, which would make them pay a lot more. The United States will continue to lead the world in environmental protection & economic might without this lopsided deal,” Cotton told Talk Business & Politics.
U.S. Rep Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, told Talk Business & Politics he expected Trump to make this move. Crawford said he thinks the agreement will cost American jobs, but also believes Trump will use this to potentially leverage a better deal in the future.
"I felt like this was coming … it doesn’t mean he’s not environmentally friendly," Crawford said.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., praised Trump and blasted the agreement. He criticized the Obama administration for formulating an agreement that picked "winners and losers" and he said China was a winner in the deal. The U.S. was expected to reduce 21% of the world’s emissions while financially subsidizing efforts by other countries, he said. Efforts to develop clean and renewable energy sources still have to continue, he said. The U.S. will still work with other countries to combat global warming, he said.
"Entering into the Paris climate accord was not in America’s best interest and the previous administration should have never taken that action without seeking the Senate’s advice and consent. I commend President Trump for taking the appropriate steps to make a clean exit from it so we can continue to pursue an 'all-of-the-above' approach to meeting our energy needs free of the significant litigation risk created by the agreement," Boozman said.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, supported the move, and said this will allow the U.S. to lead by example.
"The United States can be more effective illustrating to the rest of the world what sound environmental stewardship looks like by innovating and continuing to be the best when we lead and set the standard versus signing agreements with foreign governments and allowing others to direct how we operate," Westerman said.
"I’m not sold on the philosophy that man is the sole contributor of climate change- but we have to be careful that the United States doesn’t take a disproportionate amount of responsibility and monetary commitment for this issue," U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Russellville said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.
Criticism of the move rained down on Trump almost immediately. Former Secretary of State John Kerry who signed the deal, said the president made a terrible mistake.
"For a President to follow that historic step forward by unilaterally walking backwards from science and backwards from leadership on behalf of polluters and fringe ideologues may be the most self-defeating action in American history," he said.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas called President Trump's decision a major "leap backwards" for United States’ economy and standing in the world.
"What troubles me is our Republican delegation’s enthusiasm for this detrimental decision," Chairman Michael John Gray said.
"Members of their own party — Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham and Rex Tillerson — as well as world leaders, including the Pope himself, understand the negative impact our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will have. The fact Senators Cotton and Boozman and all four Republican Congressmen have given their thumbs up knowing full well its negative impact on our economy speaks to their poor decision-making and leadership abilities," added Gray.
The Sierra Club of Arkansas released a statement admonishing Trump and asking him to reconsider his stance.
"Trump has unilaterally surrendered the standard of American leadership on climate to stand with Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations that aren’t part of the Paris Climate Accord," Club Director Glen Hooks said in a statement.
"This is a decision that will cede America’s role internationally to nations like China and India, which will benefit handsomely from embracing the booming clean energy economy while Trump seeks to drive our country back into the 19th century. Surrendering clean energy markets to India and China means that US families are missing out on jobs and growth."