Silicon Valley comes out strong against Trump’s decision to abandon Paris agreement

Asa Mathat / Recode

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella all said today that they remain committed to the environment and clean energy initiatives in the face of Trump’s decision to withdrawn the US from the Paris climate coalition.

Though many voices around the world, including politicians and representatives from numerous corporations and countries, have expressed extreme concern over Trump’s decision, Pichai, Nadella, and Zuckerberg are three of the most powerful figures in the tech. Their opinions on political matters carry immense weight in the industry, suggesting many other members in Silicon Valley and beyond will speak up on behalf of the tech sector. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also confirmed today on Twitter that he would be stepping down from Trump’s economic advisory councils over the decision.

“Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children's future at risk,” Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page. “For our part, we've committed that every new data center we build will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Stopping climate change is something we can only do as a global community, and we have to act together before it's too late.”

Shortly after 5PM ET, Pichai tweeted, “Disappointed with today’s decision. Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.” Slightly early in the afternoon, Nadella and Brad Smith, the company’s chief legal officer, both tweeted messages reiterating Microsoft’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and preventing the devastating effects of climate change. “We believe climate change is an urgent issue that demands global action. We remain committed to doing our part,” Nadella wrote.

Smith, who is known for penning lengthy and thorough blog posts on controversial political topics on behalf of Microsoft, also directed readers to a LinkedIn post that better explained the company’s reasoning for denouncing the withdrawal.

“We are disappointed with today’s decision by the White House to withdraw the United States from the landmark, globally supported Paris Agreement on climate change,” Smith writes. “We believe that continued U.S. participation benefits U.S. businesses and the economy in important and multiple ways. A global framework strengthens competitiveness for American businesses. It creates new markets for innovative clean technologies, from green power to smart grids to cloud-enabled solutions. And by strengthening global action over time, the Agreement reduces future climate damage to people and organizations around the world.”

Though Musk and the others remain the most prominent tech industry leaders to have personally voiced concern on the subject, other tech companies have been issuing statements denouncing Trump’s decision as well. Both Amazon and HP issued statements saying they will continue to support the agreement and to take actions to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. “Climate change is one of the most significant and urgent issues facing business and society today,” wrote HP in its statement. “The science is clear, the impacts are serious and the need to act is essential.”

Prior to Trump’s press conference today, tech leaders across the industry attempted to sway the president from following through on the withdrawal. Among those were Apple CEO Tim Cook, who called the White House on Tuesday to reportedly ask Trump to reconsider. A number of other companies signed a letter that was published today as a full-page ad in both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times expressing the same concern.

According to Axios, Cook sent an email to to Apple employees today confirming his attempt on Tuesday to convince Trump to remain part of the accord. “Climate change is real and we all share a responsibility to fight it. I want to reassure you that today's developments will have no impact on Apple's efforts to protect the environment,” Cook wrote in the email. “Our mission has always been to leave the world better than we found it. We will never waver, because we know that future generations depend on us.”

Many corporate leaders like Cook tried, and apparently failed, to appeal to Trump’s nationalistic tendencies. They do so by trying to reiterate the damage the withdrawal could do to America’s business interests, as well as its ability to compete on the global stage with the nearly 200 other members of the Paris climate deal. Despite those efforts, Trump is now following through with his promise to try and renegotiate the agreement, a task some EU countries have already said is virtually impossible.

Update 5:50PM ET, 6/1: Added statement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Update 8:11PM ET, 6/1: Added excerpt from email Apple CEO Tim Cook sent to company employees today.

Comments

I have full confidence that technology can reduce CO2 levels without government intervention.

It can, but not as fast and on the same scale.

No, I think withdrawing from this agreement will ironically expedite the reversal of climate change. Without an arbitrary target, the new target is ASAP.

Unfortunately, a lot of grants that fund studies that look for this kind of technology comes from the government. So in that way it would also slow down research. But I imagine that would be a problem regardless of whether the US was still in the Paris Agreement.

It might in some form, but still, nothing can even come close to the power government has to change things when it wants to. (case in point: space race and moon landing)

This is exactly what I’m referring to:

https://twitter.com/Benioff/status/870378084779794432

The environmentalist are now putting more effort into fighting climate change than they were under the agreement.

It really has become comical, has it not? Trump will look like a genius by unleashing the passion and energies, combined with the untethered free markets, to attack the perceived problems head-on in the most direct route possible — i.e., one that does not involve multiple national and international regulatory bodies.

As a result of Trump’s move, I predict CO2 emissions in the US will fall at a far greater rate than the targets set by the Paris accord. I also predict it will change nothing regarding the climate and there will still be a chorus of leftists screaming for government control of the means of production "…or else this time we really really really will all perish from the Earth" Basically, the same dire warnings of apocalypse we endured throughout the ’70s that never came to fruition.

With all due apologies to David Byrne, "same as it ever was."

So Trump’s decision will (indirectly) screw over coal miners more than the Paris agreement itself does? That would be ironic.
BTW, Trump doesn’t look like a genius, he looks like a fool. That others step up to the plate to compensate for his idiocy doesn’t lessen the fact at he is a buffoon, totally ignorant on the issues.

I disagree.
Governments are self interested and many of the "developing world" nations that benefit from the treaty will not spend the money cleaning up their acts (charity often does more harm than good when the money is given to despots).

Private industry has done a lot to popularize existing renewable technology. People want it and prefer it. So enabling them to upgrade on their own dime is much faster and easier than expecting a government to become efficient and benevolent.

I never said that governments will actually help with that, I just said that if they could do it much better if they did.

Government policy would have basically lit a fire under everyone’s "seat" and made sure they complied with the accords.

Now companies have a choice to ignore the guidelines or (even worse) go against them for profit.

It’s especially sad for me considering I live half way around the world in a region that is reeling from the effects of global warming despite my country not even contributing even 1% towards the emissions.

Here’s a puzzle for you, then.

1) Company One makes widgets. It’s profit margins are lower, because it decides to spend some of it’s profit on measures to reduce its production of CO2.

2) Company Two also makes widgets. It’s profit margins are higher, because it decides NOT to spend some of its profit on measures to reduce CO2 production.

Guess which stock is in higher demand? Guess which stock’s price goes up? Guess which company’s stockholder board insists that less profit is spent on measures to cut CO2 production not required by law?

The company that makes the better widget and takes advantage of the public and private subsidies that it has pushed for; i.e., recycling programs subject to tax breaks, education programs to the community, donations to environmental protection, etc.

Manufacturers absolutely are capable of innovating if they want to make money and stick to the higher moral ground. But they are going to have to start getting creative if they don’t like the direction particular governments / regulators are taking.

The uproar is still the product of a society that is too concerned with the government coming to the rescue, instead of—as we all like to say about the gadgets we love—voting with our wallets!

voting with our wallets!

I’m ashamed to say that my wallet very often votes for the cheaper option on comparable products, especially when I don’t have full knowledge and access to the manufacturing process and reliable environmental auditing.
I think people like me aren’t all that rare.

To be able to pick the most environmental option you will have to research every products that can be bought. No way you are gonna make that happen on a big scale, so voting with out wallet means nothing. Example can you tell me which company for each product you own or buy on a daily basis have the lowest CO2 production?

But that is the very point of the agreements,standards,certifications, and regulations.To be able to reduce the overhead of having people to be completely knowledgeable of what is indeed the best.Even if you didn’t research everything chances are every product in your house meets some standard, whether it is CSA,EMC UL,energy star(also gutted under this administration),etc. heck even building codes are an example of this.If they didn’t that product would even be available to purchase.

So gutting all this won’t make things better.Consumers would now have to think harder because they would no longer have anything to easily verify or even compare claims to. Also it gutting just resets things to a stage where it’s a free for all that results in standards,certifications and regulations all over again.You would have to rely on independent entities to catch cheaters,cost cutters and the lot. And most of the time independent sources catch things after the fact.Example oil companies, whose appalling track record of any kind of safety concern, and failure to prevent the very problems they said the could by being unregulated resulted in the regulations they are under today, and yet…

as for voting with your wallet, it does happen on a very large scale,everyday.What’s ironic is that it is the very thing governments/companies count on when making these claims.’Don’t buy "x" they are ripping you off/hurting the economy/produced using slave labour/made with inferior material/not standards compliant’….the double standard.

I agree, but please fix your "it’s"/"its", it’s annoying.

Sorry, autocorrect got me on that!

In French it constantly inserts mistakes in my texts ; the kind that most people make and make me look illiterate. I assume that it adapts to how most people write, instead of proper language rules. Machine learning is annoying sometimes.

edit : double post

Where the widget is made is also a factor.
If a company makes it in the first world, where environmental and labor laws are still in place and highly enforced, they’d do less global and local harm than the one who makes the same widget in a nation with no such laws.
A tough law in an environmentally conscious nation (where people voted to enforce such a thing) could encourage a lot of business for nations that didn’t care about the environment. Cheap manufacturing is a boon to tech billionaires so it’s no surprise they backed an arrangement full of loopholes.
You have to encourage the business back home somehow, and paying autocratic governments won’t do that.

Technology seems to be the only way to do it. A recent study found that there isn’t enough land available to plant trees necessary to cut down Carbon-dioxide to prevent a rise in temperature by 3.6F. We need crazy machines that can cut down the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Chinese and European technology, which we’ll sell you as you lose momentum.

The Chinese cannot believe their eyes…..they’re looking to own clean energy tech that everyone will be buying over the next 100 years in increasingly massive quantities and Trump is giving it to them – cause he’s "like ya’know smart" – not.

Do these tech companies even have a choice? They are all multi-national corporations who operate in one or many of the other countries who are still a part of the accord.

Honestly though, sounds like Trump is getting exactly what he hoped for, which is for private industry to pick up the tab instead of the government.

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