President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement June 1, 2017, joining Nicaragua and Syria as countries not participating in the United Nations-sponsored pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Joseph Cotruvo, Ph.D., BCES, technical editor of sister publication Water Technology and former director of both the EPA Drinking Water Standards and the Risk Assessment Divisions, sent us his thoughts on the decision (see the full quote below). In summary, he indicated that the U.S. carried more of a financial burden in the agreement, which “was politically notable as an international agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but mostly words without requirements,” and a renegotiation may improve the U.S.’s participation.

The issue on global warming is not whether we have been in a general warming trend in the last few hundred years since the Little Ice Age but the relative contributions of natural phenomena and human activities. It would be great if that could be quantified more accurately. The Paris Accord was politically notable as an international agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but mostly words without requirements, and placing greater expectations on the U.S. than most others, especially China. The U.S. has been among the most successful countries, and painlessly by reducing emissions with greater efficiency, it has been economically favorable, including greater use of natural gas, often from fracking instead of coal. The most directly effective approach is greater use of nuclear power generation, but that has its problems in the long term. We should stay on track for net positive and productive approaches using better technology rather than top-down arbitrary requirements. If the president can negotiate a more balanced and effective international accord, that would be good, but we can continue to proceed on the current successful track. – Joseph Cotruvo, Ph.D., BCES

Industry commentary

A recent article from NPR described five potential outcomes from the exit. They include its effects on the coal industry, the global climate, the U.S.’s standing as a world leader, President Trump’s public support and the U.S. economy. Read more.

Other companies, trade associations, and U.S. states weighed in with responses and other reactions. Most reaffirmed their commitment to minimizing climate effects, decreasing carbon footprints, manufacturing more efficient and clean-operating equipment, and installing efficient processing systems and components.

Patrick Decker, Xylem Inc.’s president and CEO stated, “Addressing the realities of climate change is an opportunity to create shared value among all stakeholders, and Xylem remains committed to doing our part as a citizen of the global community to advance this vital work. The connection between the impacts of climate and our finite water resources is undeniable, and the imperatives of fostering water security and building more resilient water infrastructure are foundational to sustainable economic growth and public health.” Read Xylem’s climate change statement here.

A June 1, 2017, release from Siemens, stated that “Along with other major corporations from around the globe, Siemens understands that taking action to address the causes of climate change is not only prudent, but also makes economic sense.”

In a June 1 tweet, GE Chairman and CEO, stated he is “disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”

Further reactions to the Paris Climate Agreement exit

Below are a few other remarks from U.S. states, industry and business leaders, and trade associations. The Processing, Flow Control and Water Technology staffs will update these as more companies and associations react to this decision.

  • Microsoft’s statement reiterated that “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.”
  • According to reports from Fox Business and ABC News, California, Washington and New York formed the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement. To that end, the ILR School at Cornell University in New York announced the launch of a new union-led climate jobs campaign.
  • The American Chemical Society (ACS) also released a statement, June 1, saying it “is disappointed to learn that the Trump administration plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Society asks that this and future administrations reconsider this decision. The agreement, signed by 197 countries in 2015 and ratified by 147, is needed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and mitigate and adapt to climate change.” ACS also has a Climate Science Toolkit that provides information to help its members understand and discuss climate change.
  • While not indicated as a direct response to the decision, The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a statement on June 1, 2017, that details ways the oil and gas industry can be good stewards of the environment. API Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer Marty Durbin said, “America’s natural gas and oil industry provides the affordable, reliable energy that is the lifeblood of our economy, and we understand that the nation’s prosperity fundamentally relies on our industry’s ability to produce more of these resources in a way that promotes safety, benefits our communities and values environmental stewardship.”