Business elite tweets back over Paris accord
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
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’...