Busi­ness elite tweets back over Paris ac­cord

Sunday Times - - BUSINESS TIMES -

THE busi­ness com­mu­nity lashed back at Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to ditch the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, as two high-pro­file ex­ec­u­tives quit the pres­i­dent’s ad­vi­sory coun­cil and Gold­man Sachs’ Lloyd Blank­fein took to Twit­ter for the first time ever to ex­press dis­ap­proval.

“To­day’s de­ci­sion is a set­back for the en­vi­ron­ment and for the US’s lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the world,” Blank­fein wrote.

The one-sen­tence ven­ture into the Twit­ter­sphere — by a CEO whose Wall Street firm has the most for­mer em­ploy­ees in the ad­min­is­tra­tion — was but a drop in the wa­ter­fall of dis­cord on Trump’s de­ci­sion Thurs­day. Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook spoke to Trump on Tues­day to try to talk him out of a with­drawal, “but it wasn’t enough”, he told em­ploy­ees in a let­ter ob­tained by Bloomberg.

Walt Dis­ney CEO Bob Iger and Tesla Mo­tors founder Elon Musk both with­drew from a pres­i­den­tial jobs panel. And such blue-chip US ti­tans as Gen­eral Elec­tric, Ford Mo­tor and Dow Chem­i­cal were among com­pa­nies weigh­ing in.

In­dus­trial con­cerns and Wall Street weren’t alone in con­demn­ing Trump’s de­ci­sion. Mi­crosoft Pres­i­dent Brad Smith and blue-jeans man­u­fac­turer Levi Strauss’s Chip Bergh joined the cho­rus.

Virgin Group founder Richard Bran­son’s re­sponse was, per­haps, the most per­sonal: the de­ci­sion, he wrote, made him “want to cry”.

But Blank­fein’s Twit­ter de­but was the most eye­brow-rais­ing. He doesn’t serve on any Trump ad­vi­sory coun­cil, but his for­mer Gold­man Sachs col­leagues in the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­clude Trea­sury sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil di­rec­tor Gary Cohn and deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor Dina Pow­ell. Steve Ban­non, who left the bank more than two decades ago, is Trump’s chief strate­gist.

Cohn, who was Blank­fein’s deputy for more than a decade, de­fended Trump on CNN, say­ing: “What Pres­i­dent Trump be­lieves is that he was elected to grow the US econ­omy and pro­vide great job op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.

“What he be­lieves he did to­day was do ex­actly that,” he said.

He re­peated that po­si­tion as Wolf Bl­itzer asked three times whether Trump stood by his past tweets la­belling global warm­ing a hoax. Ul­ti­mately, Cohn said, “you’re go­ing to ac­tu­ally have to ask him.”

GE’s Jef­frey Im­melt, re­spond­ing on the pres­i­dent’s favourite so­cial­me­dia fo­rum, was more di­rect.

“Cli­mate change is real,” he tweeted. “In­dus­try must now lead and not de­pend on govern­ment.”

Black­Rock CEO Lau­rence D Fink said he would re­main a mem­ber of the White House’s CEO fo­rum, while dis­agree­ing with the with­drawal plan: “I do not agree with all of the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies and de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing to­day’s an­nounce­ment to exit the US from the Paris agree­ment which I be­lieve is a crit­i­cal step for­ward in ad­dress­ing cli­mate change,” Fink said in a state­ment.

Musk said he would fol­low through on his ear­lier pledge to quit the coun­cil should Trump aban­don Paris. “Cli­mate change is real,” he tweeted. “Leav­ing Paris is not good for Amer­ica or the world.”

Twit­ter’s leader felt the need to re­spond. “This is an in­cred­i­bly short­sighted move back­wards by the fed­eral govern­ment,” tweeted CEO Jack Dorsey. “We’re all on this planet to­gether; we need to work to­gether.”

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg said the de­ci­sion was “bad for the en­vi­ron­ment, bad for the econ­omy, and it puts our chil­dren at risk”. He said the world’s largest so­cial-net­work­ing plat­form had com­mit­ted to pow­er­ing all new data cen­tres it builds with 100% re­new­able en­ergy.

Be­fore Trump even made his de­ci­sion pub­lic, oil ex­plor­ers Exxon Mo­bil, Cono­coPhillips and BP re­it­er­ated their sup­port for the global agree­ment. Their ar­gu­ment: the US is bet­ter off with a seat at the ta­ble so it can in­flu­ence global ef­forts to curb emis­sions that are largely pro­duced by the fos­sil fu­els they profit from.

If Trump quits the ac­cord, BP CEO Bob Dud­ley said be­fore the de­ci­sion was an­nounced, “we need to be re­ally clear — rather than just walk­ing away from it — what you put in place in the United States”.

The White House said it would stick to United Na­tions rules re­quir­ing a na­tion to wait three years from the date the pact gained le­gal force on Novem­ber 4 2016, be­fore for­mally seek­ing to leave. It must then wait an­other year.

Cli­mate change is real. Leav­ing Paris is not good for Amer­ica or the world

Pic­ture: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP

CASH BE­FORE CLI­MATE: Ac­tivists protest in New York on Thurs­day against US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to pull out of the 195-na­tion Paris cli­mate ac­cord. Trump ear­lier an­nounced Amer­ica was ‘get­ting out’ of a deal he said im­posed ’dra­co­nian’...

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