White House Defends U.S. Withdrawal From Paris Climate Agreement

Jun 2, 2017
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The Trump administration spent today defending the president's decision to withdraw from the international climate deal known as the Paris accord. Environmentalists and foreign leaders are criticizing the move, but for many Trump supporters, that criticism reinforces their belief that the president made the right call. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the administration's point person on dismantling climate regulations, calls it a courageous decision by President Trump to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Pruitt insists the U.S. has nothing to apologize for, having already reduced its own carbon emissions to 1990's levels. And he says the president's announcement yesterday doesn't have to be the last word.

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SCOTT PRUITT: Exiting Paris does not mean disengagement. Paris represents a bad deal for this country. It doesn't mean that we're not going to continue the discussion. To export our innovation, to export our technology to the rest of the world, to demonstrate how we do it better here is I think a very important message to send.

HORSLEY: Trump even says he'd be willing to rejoin the Paris Agreement if the U.S. could negotiate more favorable terms, but that offer was immediately rebuffed by European leaders. The new French president, Emmanuel Macron, says the rest of the world will press ahead without the United States.

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PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: Whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility - make our planet great again.

HORSLEY: In announcing his decision Thursday, Trump said he was acting to protect coal miners and other workers whose jobs could be threatened by climate regulations. The president had already promised to roll back those rules, though, so critics say taking the additional step of withdrawing from the Paris accord was a largely symbolic slap at the international community.

DANIEL DREZNER: If the Trump administration has a grand strategy, it largely consists of trolling.

HORSLEY: Daniel Drezner is a foreign policy scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

DREZNER: This was a gratuitous way of simultaneously infuriating allies and pleasing the portion of his base that cares about this.

HORSLEY: Drezner argues that America First strategy carries a price tag. Allies may be less willing to cooperate the next time the U.S. wants help battling terrorism, for example, or rebalancing trade.

But the more the president's action provokes howls from foreign leaders and environmentalists, the better some Trump voters like it. Senior fellow Marc Thiessen of the conservative American Enterprise Institute says that was the point of Trump's line this week about representing Pittsburgh, not Paris.

MARC THIESSEN: It's for all those voters out there who are losing their jobs, who are - the factories are shutting down, coal jobs that are being destroyed by government mandate and who are sick and tired of the elites in Washington who don't care about their lives and their jobs.

HORSLEY: Trump supporters are planning to hold a Pittsburgh, not Paris, rally outside the White House tomorrow. Meanwhile, some business and political leaders in this country say they're still committed to cutting carbon pollution. The governors of Washington, New York and California have launched a new climate alliance. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg volunteered to pay the administrative cost of the Paris deal that the White House took away. And New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who's vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, says local leaders will keep doing their part.

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MITCH LANDRIEU: This is not the first time we have had to act without the federal government. It would be better if we were in concert with them. But if they're not coming, mayors across America sent a message loud and clear that collectively we're ready to take the lead on this issue and other issues that affect the welfare of the country.

HORSLEY: The mayor of Pittsburgh also weighed in, saying that city will continue to follow the Paris guidelines for its people, its economy and its future. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.