Groups Misled Trump on Economic Case Against Paris Agreement

Trump has announced plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. He based the decision on advice from a small cadre of lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry masquerading as policy experts. In another blog, I’ve detailed the most egregiously inaccurate information in Trump’s speech announcing a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The following post focuses on the faulty economic case being made against the Paris Agreement—and the groups responsible for spreading this misinformation.

Studies backed by special interests attack the Paris Agreement.

One study Trump cited, conducted by the National Economic Research Associates (NERA), was debunked by the NRDC months before.  In the study, NERA grossly inflated the costs of climate change action while ignoring the benefits. It doesn’t account for cost-saving policy designs or energy efficiency programs and misrepresented the rapidly falling costs of low-carbon technology. The study’s core scenario (cited by Trump) falsely reports a GDP loss of trillions by 2040 due to the Paris Agreement. The American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), for whom the NERA study was prepared, receives funding from Koch foundations, Exxon, and other polluters with a history of funding climate denial. In reality, study after study has shown the costs of climate change damages far outweigh the costs of reducing emissions. Taking climate action helps increase returns by 1-4% in 2021, rising to between 3-10% by 2035.

Opponents of Paris Agreement Speak for Tiny Cadre of Companies 

Trump isn’t the only one making false claims based on faulty data. A tiny minority of industry groups are fabricating opposition to the Paris Agreement.

The Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) sent a letter to Trump on May 15, expressing their support for withdrawal from Paris. In their letter, they claimed to represent large member companies with over $1 trillion in annual sales. A closer look at their 2015 membership list (because IECA does not make their membership list public), reveals that they are falsely representing many companies. Many of the companies IECA claims to be speaking on behalf of, like Dow, Alcoa, Corning and LafargeHolcim, publicly issued statements in support of the Paris Agreement—completely contradicting the stance of the IECA letter.

Companies Speak Out Against Their Own Association's Letter

Since our last blog about IECA, we’ve already seen one company, Eastman Chemical Co., drop out of IECA because its position on sustainability was so antithetical. Owens Corning, International Paper, and SABIC have also since released statements in response to queries from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, distancing themselves from the IECA letter.

“Owens Corning, a global company of 16,000 employees in 26 countries, supported the Paris Agreement during its development, we have supported it since, and we have not advocated for withdrawal.”  – Owens Corning

“We were not involved in the development of the letter and do not agree with the organization’s decision to send it.”International Paper

“We did not review or approve the May 15, 2017 letter IECA sent to President Trump in regard to the Paris Agreement. SABIC supports the global effort to protect natural capital and we are taking actions that reduce climate impacts.”SABIC

"No doubt you have seen or read the announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global accord signed by 195 countries aimed at addressing climate change. Let me assure you that, at Air Products, we share society's concerns about the impacts of climate change on our environment. And we remain committed to sustainability and the goals we have set." - Air Products and Chemicals Inc

Companies With Contradictory or Unknown Views on Paris Agreement

Supporting a withdrawal from this global agreement would contradict many members’ own sustainability goals and emphasis on climate action. Still, many IECA members have yet to address the letter and their alleged support for Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

The following companies have spoken publicly about environmental issues, but have yet to speak out about the IECA letter:

  • Abbot Laboratories: “Policy and individual choices have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard health worldwide. As a global healthcare company, we are committed to taking action to prevent climate change and its damaging effects.”
  • Agrium: signatory to the United Nations Global Compact; “We engage a variety of stakeholders in our climate change strategy, in order to identify internal and external opportunities to reduce emissions, enhance energy security and improve our industry’s competitiveness.”
  • Air Liquide America LP: “Air Liquide acts responsibly to preserve environment and public health, with the objective of improving air quality and fight against global warming.”
  • Archer Daniels Midland Company: "We are addressing some of the world's most urgent needs by improving our energy and water efficiency, implementing initiatives to ensure a sustainable global supply chain, enforcing human rights, and in local economies where ADM operates."
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Company: “We believe addressing climate change is a shared responsibility among industry and governments.”
  • CalPortland: Member of EPA Climate Leaders; “CalPortland is the industry leader for energy conservation and environmental quality.”​
  • Corning Inc.: “Our business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced response to reducing global GHG emissions. The Paris Agreement gives us that flexible framework to manage climate change while providing a smooth transition for business.”
  • Evonik Corporation: “Climate change is going on. Can we limit it? And how will we deal with its impacts? We want to play our part in finding solutions to these global challenges.”
  • Incitec Pivot: “Energy efficiency, reducing waste and water use and managing our impact in the context of climate change continue to be key parts of our environmental focus.”
  • Johns Manville : “Energy efficiency and conservation are key for climate protection and we are committed to implementing energy efficiency projects throughout our own operations.”
  • Kimberly-Clark Corporation: “In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Center for Corporate Climate Leadership recognized Kimberly-Clark with one of only 17 Climate Leadership Awards.”
  • Linde, Inc.: “Linde understands and knows about the environmental impact of its processes and works constantly to develop solutions which will limit and control such effects.”
  • MillerCoors: “We recogtnize the link between how much energy we use and how much carbon we emit into the atmosphere, and we are making significant strides in reducing our energy consumption and carbon footprint.”
  • National Gypsum Company: “Together, we can attain the highest level of ecological responsibility and resource-efficient technology.”
  • US Steel Corporation: “As a carbon intensive industry, the steel industry and U. S. Steel are seriously concerned about the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in the steelmaking process.”
  • Westrock Company: “As we look to the future, we remain focused on the three pillars of our sustainability platform: People, Planet and Performance.”
  • Weyerhaeuser Company: “We believe climate change-related public policies that are based on sound science, set clear performance objectives and standards, and leverage free-market economics can achieve beneficial change with respect to energy security and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Other companies in IECA that have not issued any statement about the letter include:

  • Ag Processing Inc
  • Airgas Inc
  • Ascend Performance Materials
  • Carpenter Technology Corporation
  • Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, Inc.
  • Celanese Corporation
  • CF Industries
  • Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
  • Deere & Company
  • Domtar
  • FMC Corporation
  • Formosa Plastics Corporation
  • Gerdau
  • Guardian Industries Corporation
  • Koch Industries Inc.
  • Lehigh Hanson, Inc.
  • LyondellBasell
  • Marathon Refining
  • Nucor Corporation
  • Olin Corporation
  • Owens-Illinois, Inc.
  • Rain CII Carbon
  • Riceland Foods, Inc.
  • TimkenSteel Corporation
  • USG Corporation
  • Verso Corporation

Even Fortune 500 companies like Dow, Alcoa, Kimberly-Clark, Weyerhaeuser, and Westrock have yet to speak out on this issue. For these companies to keep portraying themselves as environmental stewards and climate leaders—they cannot be funding and providing credibility to an organization such as IECA. First, it is time for companies to clarify whether they are in agreement with IECA that the US should withdraw from the Paris Agreement and international climate action. Second, companies should follow the example set by Eastman and re-evaluate their membership in this association. It’s quite impossible to square being sustainable and responsible companies with the views that IECA has expressed. The false "information" they are sending to the White House through their letter certainly does not speak to the quality of analysis or integrity of the group. It’s also worth noting that, since our last blog, IECA has hidden its misleading letter from the news section of its website.

Companies Who Support Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc’s most recently available sustainability report (under Carbon Emissions Leadership) states “As more stakeholders place increasing emphasis on addressing climate change, managing our carbon emissions effectively can strongly influence our economic performance and reputation in the marketplace.” However, they have also expressed support for Trump’s planned withdrawal.

Ash Grove Cement has a strong environmental message on its website as well as climate protection goals, but also does not fully accept that anthropogenic climate change “will seriously erode the future quality of human life several decades from now”. 

Members of the American Energy Alliance (AEA), another industry group that provides no public information of the companies which are members of the group, also wrote in opposition to the Paris Agreement – though one has to wonder about who exactly in the association these groups were speaking on behalf of, given the IECA experience. We do know, however, that the group is led by Thomas Pyle, former Koch Industries lobbyist and head of Trump’s transition team for energy.

It is possible Trump knowingly used false economic projections like the NERA study and relied on false industry talking points to justify withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. Though, its also possible Trump has absolutely no idea the numbers he cites are wrong and just willingly believes the lobbyists who serve as his advisers. If Trump wants to know what’s really in the Paris Agreement, it’s time for him to educate himself on the issue rather than listening to a handful of industry lobbyists. (We have our own post on the non-alternative facts about the Paris Agreement that can be a resource.) Whether it's malevolent incompetence or competent malevolence, the President has clearly sided with a small group of influential political donors like Koch Industries over the preferences of the vast majority of Americans, businesses and experts, who support the US staying in the Paris agreement.


This post was co-written with Carley Reynolds.