The business community lashed back at Donald Trump’s decision to ditch the Paris climate accord, as two high-profile executives quit the president’s advisory council and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Lloyd Blankfein took to Twitter for the first time ever to express disapproval.
“Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world,” Blankfein wrote.
The one-sentence venture into the Twittersphere — by a CEO whose Wall Street firm has the most former employees in the administration — was but a drop in the waterfall of discord on Trump’s decision Thursday. Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook spoke to Trump Tuesday to try to talk him out of a withdrawal,“but it wasn’t enough,” he told employees in a letter obtained by Bloomberg.
Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and Tesla Motors Corp. founder Elon Musk both withdrew from a presidential jobs panel. And such blue-chip U.S. titans as General Electric Co., Ford Motor Co., Dow Chemical Co. and Microsoft Corp. were among companies weighing in with their dismay.
Virgin Group Ltd. founder Richard Branson’s response was, perhaps, the most personal: The decision, he wrote, made him “want to cry.”
But Blankfein’s Twitter debut was one of the most eyebrow-raising responses. While he doesn’t serve on any of Trump’s advisory councils, his former Goldman Sachs colleagues in the administration include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell. Steve Bannon, who left the bank more than two decades ago, is Trump’s chief strategist.
Cohn, who was Blankfein’s deputy for more than a decade, defended Trump on CNN, saying, “What President Trump believes is that he was elected to grow the U.S. economy and provide great job opportunities for American citizens.
“What he believes he did today was do exactly that,” he said.
He repeated that position as Wolf Blitzer asked three times whether Trump stands by his past tweets labeling global warming a hoax. Ultimately, Cohn said, “you’re going to actually have to ask him.”
GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, responding to Trump’s decision on the president’s favorite social-media forum, was more direct. “Climate change is real,” he tweeted. “Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Laurence D. Fink said he will remain a member of the White House’s CEO forum, while disagreeing with the withdrawal plan.
“I do not agree with all of the President’s policies and decisions, including today’s announcement to exit the U.S. from the Paris Agreement which I believe is a critical step forward in addressing climate change,” Fink said in an emailed statement Thursday. “I will continue on the CEO forum as long as I believe there is the potential to have a positive impact.”
Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, meanwhile, stopped short of walking away from his role on the panel Musk and Iger abandoned. While Liveris wrote in an email that he was disappointed with Trump’s decision, he said he understands “there are always many potential solutions to challenges and are eager to work toward alternative solutions.”
Musk said he would follow through on his earlier pledge to quit the council should Trump abandon Paris. “Climate change is real,” he tweeted. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Disney’s Iger, who in March had vowed to stay on the council to maintain “a voice in the room” with the president, changed his mind Thursday.
“Protecting our planet and driving economic growth are critical to our future, and they aren’t mutually exclusive,” he said in a statement. “I deeply disagree with the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and, as a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s advisory council.”
Even Twitter Inc.’s leader felt the need to respond. “This is an incredibly shortsighted move backwards by the federal government,” tweeted CEO Jack Dorsey. “We’re all on this planet together and we need to work together.”
Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also took to his own platform to register his objection. He said the decision was “bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children at risk.” He said the world’s largest social networking platform has committed to powering all new data centers it builds with 100 percent renewable energy.
Sundar Pichai, Google Inc.’s CEO tweeted that he was disappointed with the decision on the Paris agreement and that the company will “keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.”
EBay Inc. CEO Devin Wenig also vowed to keep his company’s commitment to “doing our part on climate change” in a tweet that also said he was disappointed with the decision on the Paris pact.
Before Trump even made his decision public, oil explorers Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP Plc reiterated their support for the global agreement. Their argument: The U.S. is better off with a seat at the table so it can influence global efforts to curb emissions that are largely produced by the fossil fuels they profit from.
Exxon CEO Darren Woods took it a step further during the company’s annual investor meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. He reiterated his commitment to the Paris pact’s goals and methods, and said oil demand will continue to grow in the coming decades, even with the Paris agreement in place.
“Energy needs are a function of population and living standards,” Woods said during his first annual meeting since becoming CEO on Jan. 1. “When it comes to policy, the goal should be to reduce emissions at the lowest cost to society.”
Woods has been a staunch supporter of keeping the U.S. in the Paris group, as was his predecessor Rex Tillerson, who is now Trump’s secretary of state. In his first blog post after becoming CEO, Woods advocated low-emission fuels, carbon capture and biofuels as tools for meeting the goals of the Paris agreement.
Conoco, the world’s largest independent oil producer by market value, also expressed support for the climate agreement on Wednesday. “It gives the U.S. the ability to participate in future climate discussions to safeguard its economic and environmental best interests,” spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an email.
BP CEO Bob Dudley, speaking on Bloomberg Television Thursday, said “we’ve got to transition the world to lower-carbon forms of energy.”
Melbourne-based BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, said the withdrawal plan “does not impact our long-held support for the agreement.” The company will “share market experience to support governments in delivering the changes in policy and regulation required to successfully address climate change,” it said Friday in an emailed statement.
If Trump quits the accord, Dudley said before the decision was announced, “we need to be really clear — rather than just walking away from it — what you put in place in the United States.”
Industrial concerns and Wall Street weren’t alone in condemning Trump’s decision. Microsoft President Brad Smith and blue-jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co.’s Chip Bergh joined the chorus of displeased executives.
“We’re disappointed with the decision to exit the Paris Agreement. Microsoft remains committed to doing our part to achieve its goals,” Smith tweeted.
While Trump, in defense of his action, said leaving the accord would save money and jobs, Bergh and Salesforce.com Inc. CEO Marc Benioff foresee a different outcome.
“Leaving the Paris Climate Accord puts us — and our U.S. peers — at a huge disadvantage,” Bergh said in an emailed statement. Nonetheless, he added, “we will continue to pursue technologies that can reduce the apparel industry’s environmental impact.”
Benioff, meanwhile, pledged to double the company’s efforts to combat climate change, saying he was “deeply disappointed.”