European leaders and green groups reacted with anger and dismay after President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States, the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, was quitting the 2015 Paris Agreement.
But they also pledged to defend the agreement and not to backtrack in the fight against climate change.
“As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump announced, arguing that the accord would undermine the US economy and put it at a permanent disadvantage in the world. “We're getting out but we'll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.”
In an exceptional step, continental Europe’s three biggest economies — Germany, France and Italy — issued a joint statement in which they criticized Trump’s decision and said the pact was “not renegotiable.”
“We note the United States’ decision with regret,” they said, describing the accord as “a vital tool for our planet, our societies, and our economies.”
“We are firmly convinced that the agreement cannot be renegotiated,” they added.
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Union’s executive Commission, lashed Trump’s decision as “seriously wrong.”
The body’s commissioner for climate action and energy Miguel Arias Canete also pledged continued “global leadership” on climate change.
“The EU deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration,” he said in a statement. “The Paris Agreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change.”
“Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable,” Canete added.
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “regret” at the decision, and called for a continuation of “climate policies which preserve our world.” Seven Social Democratic ministers in her coalition government said the United States “is harming itself, we Europeans, and all the people of the world.”
In France, the Elysee presidential palace said newly-elected leader Emmanuel Macron had phoned Trump to say that “nothing was negotiable” in the Paris agreement. France and the United States “would continue to work together,” but not on climate change, the presidential office said.
Paris city hall meanwhile said it would illuminate its building in green on Thursday “in a sign of disapproval” of Trump’s announcement and to recall the determination of cities around the world to fight climate change.
In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni urged against any retreat from fighting climate.
“Let’s not go backwards from the Paris Agreement,” he said on Twitter. “Italy is committed to reducing [carbon] emissions, to renewable energy, sustainable development.”
Among environment groups, Climate Action Network said the withdrawal “signals that the Trump Administration is in total discord with both reality and the rest of the world.”
“Unfortunately, the first to suffer from this injudicious decision is the American people,” the group, an alliance of climate activists, said. “This action is totally contrary to their best interests: their health, security, food supply, jobs and future.”
Friends of the Earth International said “pulling out of the Paris Agreement would make the US a rogue state on climate change. The rest of the world cannot let the US drag it down.”
Oxfam France branded the decision as “shameful and irresponsible, scorning people and world peace.”
Among the scientific community, Britain’s prestigious Royal Society said Trump’s decision would hamper US innovation in cleaner technology.
“The future is in newer, cleaner and renewable technologies, not in fossil fuels,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, the society’s president.
“Such technologies will also help in our fight against air pollution and ensure greater energy security globally. President Trump is not putting America first, he is tethering it to the past.”
Musk quits advisory panels
Tesla founder Elon Musk on Thursday confirmed he would quit White House business panels in reaction to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote on Twitter shortly after Trump’s announcement.