The Cable

Major Energy Firms Plead With Trump to Stay in Paris

Just two coal companies have applauded the U.S. withdrawal from the international climate pact.

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The list of those opposed to President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, meant to lower greenhouse gas emissions, keeps getting longer — and now it includes a host of major energy companies.

ExxonMobil, the nation’s biggest oil company, along with BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell, have all come out arguing for the United States to stay in Paris. For many of them, it makes plenty of business sense: Certainty over what kind of environmental targets will prevail in years to come always trumps uncertainty. And for big producers of clean-burning natural gas, it makes sense to promote policies that incentivize cutting carbon emissions.

Even one coal company, Cloud Peak Energy, wants Trump to stay in Paris, rehashing a line U.S. energy companies trotted out almost a decade ago during the Obama administration’s efforts to introduce a cap-and-trade system: Better to have a seat at the table than be lunch.

“By remaining in the Paris Agreement, albeit with a much different pledge on emissions, you can help shape a more rational international approach to climate policy,” Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall wrote Trump in a personal letter sent in April.

Just two coal companies — Murray Energy and Peabody Energy — and one iron ore mining company, Cliffs Natural Resources, support Trump’s decision. Under the terms of the pact signed by former President Barack Obama in 2015, the United States agreed voluntarily to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. Almost every other country in the world made pledges of their own.

In the days after Trump’s decision to pull out, those coal companies are feeling lonely. Last week, a  group of 30 mayors, three governors, more than 100 businesses, and more than 80 presidents of American universities said they would live up to Paris commitments on their own. Separately, a group of 83 mayors, representing cities such as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh, vowed to live up to Paris promises.

Trump said he pulled out of the deal to save shield the economy from job losses and lower growth he said would come from curbing emissions. He also couched the withdrawal as an assertion of U.S. sovereignty, even though the voluntary accord did nothing to mandate any aspect of U.S. energy or economic policy.

Among those who called out Trump for misleading the country and the world was Der Spiegel, the German news weekly that has already had some in-your-face covers taking aim at the president. (It’s most recent cover shows Trump trash-talking a burning earth he has just launched off the golf tee. The title? “You’re fired.”)

In an op-ed published this weekend, the magazine called Trump’s decision his “Triumph of Stupidity.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the world leaders who tried and failed to convince Trump to stay true to Obama’s promises.

“Trump’s withdrawal is a catastrophe for the climate. The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases — behind China — and is now no longer part of global efforts to put a stop to climate change,” the magazine wrote. “It’s America against the rest of the world, along with Syria and Nicaragua, the only other countries that haven’t signed the Paris deal.”

That’s not entirely fair to Nicaragua, though — it stayed out of Paris in another kind of protest: It felt the voluntary pact didn’t go far enough to fight climate change.

And India — who Trump accused of signing the deal to get access to foreign aid — also hit back Monday. It’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said, “Anyone who says we have signed Paris because of the lure of money, I reject that as baseless. This is not the reality. Our signature is not out of greed or fear.”

Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Correction, June 6, 2017: A previous version of this article described Cliffs Natural Resources as a coal mining company. It left this business in 2015 and is now solely an iron ore mining company.

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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