Former US President Barack Obama on Thursday slammed President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, implying his decision would hurt rather than help the US economy.
Obama didn’t directly name Trump in his statement, but he made clear that he didn’t agree with Trump’s decision.
“Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future,” Obama said. “And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.”
The Paris Agreement, negotiated in part by the Obama administration and signed by 195 countries in December 2015, aims to cap the increase in the planet’s overall temperature at less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.
Trump said on Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden that he would be open to “renegotiating and rejoining” the agreement, though France, Germany, and Italy issued a statement afterward saying the agreement couldn’t be renegotiated.
“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” Obama said. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack.”
The US joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries that aren’t signatories to the international agreement. Even North Korea, one of the most isolated countries, has signed on.
But Obama added a hopeful sentiment.
“Even in the absence of American leadership, even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got,” Obama said.
The Climate Mayors, a group of 61 mayors of US cities, released a joint statement on Thursday afternoon saying they would commit to upholding the Paris Agreement despite the federal government’s withdrawal.
“If the president wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks,” the group said.
The Climate Mayors’ statement echoes a call in November by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, for the 128 US mayors who are part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to join the Paris Agreement in the federal government’s place.
John Kerry, who was a secretary of state under Obama, also issued a forceful condemnation of Trump’s decision in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.
“The president was not truthful with the American people today, and the president who talked about putting ‘America first’ has now put America last,” Kerry said. “This is an extraordinary moment of fake news, because the economy he described is not the economy of America.”
Kerry added: “He’s made us an environmental pariah in the world, and I think it is one of the most self-destructive moves I have ever seen by any president in my lifetime.”