On December 12, 2015, 195 nations adopted what came to be known as Paris Agreement. And it was seen as the best and most promising effort till date to tackle Climate Change. Every country put forward a mostly voluntary pledge for how it planned to curb greenhouse gas emissions and over time strengthen those efforts.
On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the accord, thus making it only the third country in the world in addition to Syria and Nicaragua who have not signed the deal.
The US tech industry, which has always supported the Paris Agreement and has over the past couple of years announced plans to go green, reacted with a range of emotions — from disappointment, to alarm to complete dismay.
In fact even before Trump’s final announcement came on Thursday, top technology firms such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Adobe had placed ads in leading newspapers such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post stating that the Paris Agreement was good for the US economy and the environment, and urged the President to stay in the deal.
Immediately after Thursday’s Presidential speech, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, a well-known advocate of clean energy and runs green companies like Tesla and SolarCity, announced that he was quitting the President’s Advisory Council. Musk had threatened to quit the council on Wednesday if Trump made the decision to pull out.
This is an interesting change of stance for Musk, who had earlier resisted calls to resign from the advisory council arguing that a closer access would give him the chance to influence the President’s mind on policies.
In fact Musk has been one of the high profile tech industry advisor for the POTUS and had earlier praised the appointment of former Exxon Mobil head Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State because Tillerson is Climate Change believer and also supported a carbon tax on corporates.
However, On Thursday, a dejected Musk also sent a second tweet debunking one of Trump’s claims about the Paris Accord.
Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in a long post on LinkedIn, which he also tweeted: “Microsoft believes that climate change is an urgent issue that demands global action. We have a longstanding commitment to sustainability, which includes operating 100 percent carbon neutral and setting goals to increase the amount of green energy to power our operations.”
“We all live on a small planet and every nation needs to work with others to protect it. We’ve been a steadfast supporter of the Paris Agreement, from encouraging nations to come to an agreement in 2015 to urging the U.S. to ratify the agreement in 2016.”
In the past few months, Microsoft has actively engaged the Trump Administration on the business case for remaining in the Paris Agreement. We’ve sent letters to and held meetings on this topic with senior officials in the State Department and the White House. And in the past month, we’ve joined with other American business leaders to take out full-page ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Post, urging the Administration to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement.”
We believe that continued U.S. participation benefits U.S. businesses and the economy in important and multiple ways. A global framework strengthens competitiveness for American businesses. It creates new markets for innovative clean technologies, from green power to smart grids to cloud-enabled solutions. And by strengthening global action over time, the Agreement reduces future climate damage to people and organizations around the world.”
We are disappointed with today’s decision by the White House to withdraw the United States from the landmark, globally supported Paris Agreement on climate change.
We remain steadfastly committed to the sustainability, carbon and energy goals that we have set as a company and to the Paris Agreement’s ultimate success. Our experience shows us that these investments and innovations are good for our planet, our company, our customers and the econom.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook, blasted the POTUs decision calling it “wrong for our planet”. He sent an emotional mail to employees, claiming that he had called the White House and tried changing the President’s mind about quitting the Paris Accord but that wasn’t enough.
Below is the text of the full email:
I know many of you share my disappointment with the White House’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. I spoke with President Trump on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to keep the U.S. in the agreement. But it wasn’t enough.
Climate change is real and we all share a responsibility to fight it. I want to reassure you that today’s developments will have no impact on Apple’s efforts to protect the environment. We power nearly all of our operations with renewable energy, which we believe is an example of something that’s good for our planet and makes good business sense as well.
We will keep working toward the ambitious goals of a closed-loop supply chain, and to eventually stop mining new materials altogether. Of course, we’re going to keep working with our suppliers to help them do more to power their businesses with clean energy. And we will keep challenging ourselves to do even more. Knowing the good work that we and countless others around the world are doing, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about our planet’s future.
Our mission has always been to leave the world better than we found it. We will never waver, because we know that future generations depend on us.
Your work is as important today as it has ever been. Thank you for your commitment to making a difference every single day.
Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright expressed dejection over the move saying that by backing out of the Paris climate agreement, US has joined two other nations — Nicaragua and Syria — not willing to work on solving one of the biggest problems facing our planet, i.e., not willing to pledge a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by the year 2025.”
Wright added that Climate Change was 100% real (and according to 100% of scientific researchers whose work is rigorously in peer-reviewed) “and the implications are incredibly serious for human health, human mobility, food security, water security, city planning for sustainable and smart cities, and a host of other issues. In the US we have a shared value of caring for people who have less than we do. We know not only that climate change is real but that it disproportionately affects those least able to cope. We certainly hold this as a value at Esri, which is why we work tirelessly to create geospatial software and services to help people find solutions, solutions to finding enough clean water, clean energy, food, helping people to find the best places to move to if they must, or improve the places where they choose to stay.”
Jeff Immelt, Chairman & CEO of General Electric (GE), tweeted: “Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
The biggest question now would be how other leading nations respond to the US pulling out of the Accord. Will they redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Or does the historic agreement start to fray and unravel without the US?
But hope is in the air
There is hope in Dr Wright’s words: “A silver lining is that environmental problems and threats will not just disappear due to US federal recalcitrance and we at Esri are fully committed to applying ‘The Science of Where’ to help solving them. This is especially true at the state level such as in California where we will continue to work to reduce emissions regardless. And as pointed out recently by an Australian climate scientist, the US backing out of the Paris climate agreement could make positive action and solution-seeking stronger across the world. The countries who are IN the agreement are likely to redouble their efforts through new trade measures and new, emboldened environmental leadership.”
Former Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore, who felt “the reckless and indefensible action” undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time”, was also hopeful that “civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge. We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president; but no matter what he does, we will ensure that our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy continues.”