Why corporate America thumbed its nose at Trump over the climate deal - Macleans.ca

Why corporate America thumbed its nose at Trump over the climate deal

In the industrialized world, Trump, the Republicans and other North American conservatives are among the final holdouts in taking seriously the fight against climate change

General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeff Immelt listens during a news conference to discuss the company's plan to move its headquarters to the city of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts, April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTSDKX0

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt was just one of the several high-profile corporate leaders to dump on Trump for pulling America out of the Paris climate accord (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

The furious reaction to Donald Trump’s abandonment of the world’s climate accord came from what, in 2017, is the usual suspects.

“Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real,” said prominent green radical Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric.

“Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” said the chief executive of Tesla, Elon Musk, whose eco-activist taint was evident from his known ties (until Thursday) to two advisory councils for, er, Donald Trump.

“Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world,” said anti-capitalist Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, in his first-ever tweet.

“We believe the United States can best exercise global leadership and advance U.S. interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort,” said an open letter earlier this week from an alliance of organizations that have probably never created a private-sector job in their lives, including Apple, Microsoft, Levi Strauss, Morgan Stanley and Unilever.

READ MORE: As Trump boosts coal, China takes the lead on climate change

Who will stand up to these anti-capitalist wingnuts to remind them of the climate agreement’s manifestly destructive impact on American businesses, which Trump has vowed to protect?

Et tu, Exxon Mobil, past obfuscator of climate science, driller-baby-driller supreme, and supplier of Trump’s secretary of State? “We believe that the United States is well positioned to compete within the framework of the Paris Agreement,” the company told the White House in March.

In the industrialized world, Trump, the Republicans and other North American conservatives are among the final holdouts in taking seriously the fight against more erratic weather, more future drought and more coastal areas under water in the future–even the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida stands to get flooded regularly in coming decades. As with his immigration demagoguery, Trump is not only isolating himself from the global community, but also his peers in business.

Major investors, that engine of the economic growth Trump wants to stoke, are pushing toward climate action outside of Trump’s Paris entanglements, as well. Not long ago, investor activism on climate change was overwhelmingly the purview of groups pushing for college and university endowments to divest of oil and gas holdings, as though it’s the 1980s and we’re fighting apartheid all over again.

New successes have been hailed by those who keep their stake in the game, and use leverage as shareholders to exact change. A day before Trump’s move, a majority of Exxon shareholders defied the company and urged more reporting on risks the business faces from evolving technologies and climate policies like the Paris’ deal and its aim to keep global temperatures from rising by two degrees Celsius or more. New York and California pension funds were among the shareholders raising their voices, as well as major investment companies Vanguard and BlackRock. Earlier in May, BlackRock also successfully pushed for more climate risk disclosure from Occidental Petroleum, one of Texas’s largest producers. “Generally, BlackRock expects companies to identify and report on material, business-specific social and environmental risks and opportunities, and to explain how these are managed,” the company stated in a memo.

Leading investors and corporations in the United States have expectations that are sharply at odds with the Trump administration, which is loosening regulations in various areas to let the corporate refuseniks continue to refuse, as more global players worry about global risk.

This is no different in Canada; in fact, it’s more pointed, with federal and provincial governments having already made firmer policies. When the federal government said last fall it’s mandating carbon pricing in every province, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna did it with backing in principle from a blue-chip list of companies that included four of Canada’s five big banks, pipeline giants Enbridge and TransCanada, and other carbon-intensive players like Air Canada and the Cement Association of Canada. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley launched the province’s carbon tax and climate plan in November 2015, with the heads of Suncor, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources on stage with her. Collectively, the three companies own most of the province’s active oil sands.

READ MORE: Trudeau says Canada will capitalize if Trump ignores climate change

What firms in the energy sector and outside of it like about the climate plan is the certainty of the new regulations—that they can price policies into their business plans with less fear that a hasty government will be forced to react later on after a hyper-extended laggard period. Meanwhile, Alberta conservative leaders Jason Kenney and Brian Jean say they’ll scrap Notley’s carbon tax and end the sentence there, while new federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer apes the old Stephen Harper policy of opposing a broad carbon tax and instead taking an industry-by-industry approach in tandem with United States policy–which means doing nothing, or advancing fractionally. Some smaller or mid-sized companies with less global exposure will applaud the small-government measures Scheer and his former colleagues in Alberta advocate. But beyond the Greenpeaces and Sierra Clubs, it’s the business world that will not much tolerate a simple repeal of carbon taxation plans–in U.S. health-care parlance, they’d demand a satisfying repeal and replace.

In April, Moody’s warned about the petroleum industry’s significant credit risks due to global policy change, technology advances and changing consumer preferences. The ratings agency uses the Paris agreement as a baseline for measuring emissions reduction demands and their financial consequences. “While the future energy and environmental policies of the United States are unclear at this time, Moody’s does not believe that the pathway to lower global emissions will be derailed in the coming decade,” the agency said, more than a month before Trump did exactly what he’d promised at campaign rallies.

Trump will be Trump, the corporate world has begrudgingly concluded. The business community, and the smart money that underpins it, continues to charge in the opposite direction from Trump and the attempted climate counter-revolution.



Why corporate America thumbed its nose at Trump over the climate deal

  1. Well the US has never exactly been IN the treaty, so having them OUT won’t make any difference.

    The Americans lost the lead a long time ago.

    The world will go on without them…..and Americans will find themselves further and further behind.

    • It is well and good to believe in a fantasy that what the US does does not matter but they are the second largest global emitter behind China so if one believes that emissions cause climate change, what the US does, does matter. Coal-fired electricity is a huge emitter…much higher than any petroleum product. It is also a huge air polluter. If the fight is real, the first step should be to shut down the coal industry…full stop.

  2. One doesn’t need a global agreement to fight climate change. Arguably, a global agreement makes it more difficult to fight climate change.

    The purpose of the Paris Agreement, like most global agreements, is to facilitate how the global 1%’ers can avoid doing their share, while creating rentier streams for themselves. The purpose of the agreement is to shift the costs onto ordinary people while guaranteeing profits and securing the wealth of the global 1%’ers.

    • Oh quit with the nonsense.

  3. Carbon pricing? Why do fossil fuel fanboys always go that way when it isn’t more than a minor adjunct to leading decarbonization programs? Or is this just whistling past the graveyard? Any reasonable plan involves transitioning from fossil fuel energy to other kinds of energy; within those scenarios the market outlook for fossil fuels isn’t so good regardless of price. The least expensive alternatives are efficiency and conservation. After that renewable energy including both adding capacity and enhancing existing capacity are viable options and, even though emerging technologies are immature, they’re already competing effectively in supply auctions. Much is made of the impact on business (although which business is never clear); for the majority of businesses, energy is a cost of production, consequently using less energy and/or using cheapest available energy as much as possible lowers their cost of production increasing competitiveness. Another undercurrent little discussed is that many enterprises are becoming more energy savvy including finding their own means of production; this is increasingly producing distortions in monopoly and oligopoly markets traditional to energy producers i.e. free market economics is breaking down charter enterprise. At the same time, cost of production has shifted to where natural gas is undercutting other fossil fuels driving coal and heating oil out of business particularly in large industrial applications. Savvy corporations have woken up to the fact that decarbonizing their internal economy is good for business and perhaps have become disenchanted with energy sources that idealize a premise of ever increasing price.

  4. The US is at the lowest level of CO2 emissions since the Eisenhower administration. This didn’t happen based on any altruistic approach or agreement but rather because of good old economics. While pursuing fracking, one of the outcomes was a glut of natural gas which drove the price to record lows. And that pricing resulted in it natural gas replacing higher CO2 emitting fossil fuels like coal and bunker wherever that was possible.
    According to the EPA, if the US takes no further action over this century, the US will contribute 0.2 degrees C of temperature increase over the next 83 years. With the massive debt Obama amassed, the US has far greater fish to fry than sending money to developing countries because of the Paris Accord.
    This is one of the smartest things Trump has done.

    • It’s interesting Jerome how the scientifically illiterate have been so easily convinced by those making a fortune on the climate deals (governments via taxes, big business via sales of new and more expensive products and services, and plain old frauds like Gore, Obama, Suzuki, et al.) that they can somehow control a process which has been going on since the beginning of the earth’s history.
      The naive have been convinced that the 0.8 degrees C increase in Global temperatures over the last 100 years is catastrophic, have failed to understand that there has virtually been no statistically significant warming at all over the last 19 years, don’t seem to understand that the sea level increases are much the same as they’ve been for over a hundred years and are therefore no more threat now then they were in the 1800s, apparently haven’t been told that even the great political alarmists (the IPCC) has explained that there is “insufficient” evidence to relate climate change to any perceived increase in the intensity of storms, and so forth. Yet the “Chicken Littles” of the our society continue on with their screams that “the sky is falling!”.
      Not only that but they lash out feverishly at anyone who attempts to correct their numerous misconceptions and claims with scientific data…

  5. Makes no difference whatever.

    None of you understand what any of it means.

    • Emily,
      And I don’t understand your post. Do you?

      • This site is loaded with deniers…..who have no knowledge of climate change.

        I ignore them.

        • And I suppose that you have all the answers with your multiple degrees and extensive experience in various earth sciences. Your use of the derogatory term “deniers” is highly suggestive evidence of your ignorance.

          • And your post is highly suggestive of your stupidity.

            Shuffle off.

  6. Some are naive enough to fail to understand whey it was absolutely necessary for the U.S. to leave the totally useless and expensive Paris accord. For example, the U.S. was to put a billion dollars into a silly plan to control an uncontrollable climate. Consider for a moment just the planned new coal plants:
    China 1171
    India 446
    Indonesia 119
    Japan 45
    South Africa 24
    South Korea 26
    Phillippines 60
    Turkey 93
    EU28 27
    U.S. 0
    Get the picture now?

    • Typo “why” not “whey”.