World leaders pledge unity after Trump dumps climate pact

Friday June 2 2017

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2017. PHOTO | REUTERS 

By Reuters

China and Europe pledged on Friday to unite to save what German Chancellor Angela Merkel called "our Mother Earth", standing firmly against President Donald Trump's decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate change pact.

Others, including India, signalled their commitment to the accord, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said that while the United States should have remained in the 2015 deal, he would not judge Trump, and warned about the accord's impact on jobs and poverty.

"You shouldn't make a noise about this, but should create the conditions for joint work," Putin said at an economic forum, adding that Trump had said he wanted to renegotiate a new deal.

"If such a major emitter as the US is not going to cooperate entirely then it won't be possible to agree any deal in this area," Putin said.

The Kremlin leader said that "in my view it was possible (for the US) not to leave the Paris agreement because it is a framework deal, and it was possible to change the US obligations inside the framework of these agreements."

"But what has been said has been said. And we need to think what to do further," he said.

Tapping into the "America First" message he used on the election trail, Trump announced the withdrawal on Thursday, saying that participating would undermine the US economy, wipe out US jobs, weaken American national sovereignty and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to others.

Dismay and anger

There was a mix of dismay and anger across the world.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement should challenge other countries "to increase their efforts to address climate change."

Mr Annan, a member of The Elders, said no single country could dismantle the agreement which was born out of a desire "for co-operative solutions to a global problem."

The Elders, a group formed by Nelson Mandela to promote peace and human rights around the world, called on US businesses and state authorities to take action where the federal government has withdrawn.

Ghana's former President John Mahama said Trump's decision was "unbelievable" and a "very sad day for global co-operation".

Mr Mahama was among world leaders who backed the historic agreement, promising to implement measures to curtail global warming.

Others, including Zimbabwe, said poor nations would bear the brunt of climate change.

Warmer climate

France said it would work with US states and cities -- some of which, notably California, have broken with Trump's decision -- to keep up the fight against climate change.

A number of business and industry figures criticised Trump's decision, while others focused on what it might mean to their trade.

Germany's powerful car industry said Europe would need to reassess its environmental standards to remain competitive after the "regrettable" US decision.

The World Meteorological Organisation estimated that US withdrawal from the emissions-cutting accord could add 0.3 degrees Celsius to global temperatures by the end of the century in a worst-case scenario.

Germany's Merkel, a pastor's daughter who is usually intensely private about her faith, said the accord was needed "to preserve our Creation".

"To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let's continue going down this path so we're successful for our Mother Earth," she said to applause from lawmakers.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron turned Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan on its head, saying in a rare English-language statement that it was time to "make the planet great again".

China-Europe meet

A long-scheduled meeting on Friday between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and top European Union officials in Brussels was dominated by Trump's decision.

The meeting will end with a joint statement pledging full implementation of the Paris deal, committing China and the EU to cutting back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology and helping raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries reduce their emissions.

China, now the world's largest polluter, has emerged as Europe's unlikely partner in this and other areas -- underlining Trump's isolation on many issues.

"There is no reverse gear to energy transition. There is no backsliding on the Paris Agreement," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

China said it was a responsible country that had been working hard on tackling climate change.

Warm words

The vast majority of scientists believe that global warming - bringing with it sharp changes in climate patterns - is mainly the result of human activities including power generation, transport, agriculture and industry.

A small group of sceptics - some of whom are in the Trump White House - believe this is a hoax that could damage business.

A number of figures from US industry expressed their dismay at Trump's move.

Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of US conglomerate General Electric, tweeted: "Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government."

Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger said they would leave White House advisory councils after Trump's move.

Michael Bloomberg, US billionaire businessman, has offered $15 million to UN efforts to tackle climate change. He tweeted: "Washington can't stop our climate progress. Americans will fulfill theby leading from the bottom up."

Short-term advantage

German industry associations also criticised Trump's decision, warning that it would harm the global economy and lead to market distortions.

Germany's DIHK Chambers of Commerce and VDMA engineering industry group warned that US companies could gain short-term advantages by Trump's decision.

"Climate protection can be pushed forward in an effective and competition-friendly way only by all states," said DIHK President Eric Schweitzer.

Environmental groups were scathing. The US Sierra Club, citing Trump's endorsement of what he regards as clean coal, tweeted: "Clean coal, you can find that next to the unicorns and leprechauns."

- Additional reporting from AFP and BBC.