Companies Defend Paris Deal Because of Its Economic Benefits

President Trump announced eventual plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement while simultaneously “renegotiating” it. (For the record this approach is deluded and nonsensical to experts on the Paris Agreement.) Consider this an assault on our economy, our health, our environment and future generations. Abandoning this Agreement of nearly every nation on the face of the earth, letting polluters decide foreign policy, and ignoring the economic case for the Paris Agreement is disastrous. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement directly contradicts America’s economic interests. That’s why over 1100 companies worth well over $3 trillion dollars in revenues have supported this Agreement. And while the vast majority of American business voices support the Paris Agreement, a small opposition funded largely by polluters is intentionally spreading misinformation about the Paris Agreement—and should be called out for it.

Companies supporting the Paris Agreement far outnumber companies in opposition

Over one thousand companies have publicly declared their support for the Paris Agreement and urged Trump to stay in it. Companies within just the Fortune 500 that support the Paris Agreement have revenues of over $3 trillion, equivalent to over one-sixth of the entire US economy. Plus, the low-carbon economy championed by the Paris Agreement represents the fastest sectors for jobs growth in the energy sector, already employing far more Americans than coal. Investors understand which industries will generate the best returns, and that’s why over 280+ institutional investors worth over $17 trillion in assets (one-fifth of annual global GDP) have asked the US and other G7 countries to stand by their Paris commitments. Withdrawing from Paris is a disastrous decision that dampens investment, jobs growth and America’s commitment to tackling climate change. Refusing to take climate action puts America at greater financial risk because damage due to climate change represents a serious threat to infrastructure and homes across America.

Companies that promote climate denial are falsely claiming support for Paris withdrawal

The Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) purports to represent companies worth over $1 trillion in sales who reject the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, their own membership list from 2015 lists several companies that have publicly declared their support for the Paris Agreement including Dow, Alcoa, Corning and LafargeHolcim. Based on the 2015 listing of members we tracked down, (because IECA does not make their membership list public), the IECA is falsely claiming to represent companies  and appropriating their “worth” in the order of at least $200 billion. This group is grossly and intentionally exaggerating the opposition to the Paris Agreement and falsely leveraging the voice of member companies. Perhaps not surprisingly, IECA is supported by the Koch Foundation and Nucor, which both fund climate denial through groups such as the Heartland Institute. One company, when contacted about the IECA letter against the Paris Agreement, actually responded that it was not even aware of the IECA letter sent in their name to the White House in opposition to the Paris Agreement. 

Time to call out companies that oppose the Paris Agreement

Consider that some of the companies the IECA falsely claims to represent, like Dow, Alcoa, Corning and LafargeHolcim, have all written directly to the White House in support of the Paris Agreement. Given the emphasis placed on climate action by IECA’s own member companies, it seems very likely that the IECA is primarily speaking for a handful of polluters such as Koch Industries, rather than the other possibility that American companies are offering two contradictory and hypocritical stances on climate change. If the former is true, it’s yet another example of a small minority that wants to preserve profits at the expense of Americans. If the latter is true, then the companies should be called out for their hypocrisy. When the vast majority of companies have issued their support for the Paris Agreement, and made a strong economic case for why they support it, we must call out companies that are hiding behind polluter-backed trade associations opposed to climate action.

These companies must either come clean about their position on the Paris Agreement or extricate themselves from anti-climate groups such as the IECA. Companies that claim to embrace sustainability such as Eastman Chemical cannot claim social responsibility if they are also calling for withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and undermining America’s effort to reduce emissions through their membership in IECA. The International Paper Company signed the ABA Climate Pledge supporting a Paris deal, Owens Corning signed the Low Carbon USA letter supporting Paris, and SABIC has publicly touted their participation at the Paris COP21 venue —yet all three companies are in the IECA, which sent a letter to Trump calling for withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement supports America’s interests—despite what a few anonymous trade associations may claim

What happens if Trump sides with a small band of polluters against the overwhelming support for the Paris Agreement? He is going against thousands of companies worth several trillion dollars, institutional investors with over $17 trillion in assets, and seventy percent of Americans. Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would be a huge loss for the American economy and environment. Trump’s embrace of polluter interests and climate inaction makes America weak by increasing our exposure to the severe economic damages from climate change that affect homes and businesses across America, and to severe negative health implications for Americans for generations to come. The vast majority of American businesses have rightly stood up to Trump and asked him to stay in the Paris Agreement. A small minority disagree—but only via anonymous polluter-backed trade groups. The good news is, the anti-Paris companies-in-hiding are still far outnumbered. But with the tragic recent news that Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it’s time to call out these companies. 

* This blog has been updated to reflect that Goodyear ceased its membership in IECA in 2016, and was not a party to its May 15, 2017 letter urging withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and that SABIC participated in the COP21 venue, not the negotiations themselves.

About the Authors

Han Chen

International Climate Advocate, International and Climate & Clean Air programs

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