BERLIN/BRUSSELS China and Europe pledged on Friday to unite to save what German Chancellor Angela Merkel called “our Mother Earth”, standing firmly against President Donald Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate change pact.
Trump’s move was “a big mistake”, said Donald Tusk, one of the European Union’s top officials.
Other countries, including India, signalled their commitment to the accord, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said that while the United States should have remained in the 2015 deal, he would not judge Trump, and warned about the accord’s impact on jobs and poverty.
Tapping into the “America First” message he used on the election trail, Trump announced the withdrawal on Thursday. He said participating in the pact would undermine the U.S. economy, wipe out jobs, weaken national sovereignty and put his country at a permanent disadvantage.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on television on Friday the Paris deal “put an extraordinary burden” on the United States.
“It was a transfer of wealth from the most powerful economy in the world to other countries around the planet,” he said.
There was a mix of dismay and anger across the world.
France said it would work with U.S. states and cities to keep up the fight against climate change. The governors of New York, California and Washington State have announced creation of a “climate alliance” committed to the Paris goals.
A number of business and industry figures criticized Trump’s decision; others focused on what it might mean to their trade.
Germany’s powerful car industry said Europe would need to reassess its environmental standards to remain competitive after the “regrettable” U.S. decision.
The World Meteorological Organization estimated that U.S. withdrawal from the emissions-cutting accord could add 0.3 degrees Celsius to global temperatures by the end of the century in a worst-case scenario.
Germany’s Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who is usually intensely private about her faith, said the accord was needed “to preserve our Creation”.
“To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path so we’re successful for our Mother Earth,” she said to applause from lawmakers.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron turned Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan on its head, saying in a rare English-language statement that it was time to “make the planet great again”.
CHINA AND EUROPE TOGETHER
At a long-planned meeting on Friday between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Union officials in Brussels, the leaders pledged full implementation of the Paris deal. They committed to cut fossil fuels use, develop more green technology and raise funds to help poorer countries reduce emissions.
China, now the world’s largest polluter, has emerged as Europe’s unlikely partner in this and other areas as Trump has isolated the United States on many issues.
China said it was a responsible country that had been tackling climate change.
“Today we are stepping up our cooperation on climate change with China… We are convinced that yesterday’s decision by the United States to leave the Paris Agreement is a big mistake,” European Council President Tusk said.
Earlier, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “There is no reverse gear to energy transition. There is no backsliding on the Paris Agreement.”
The vast majority of scientists believe global warming – bringing with it sharp changes in climate patterns – is mainly the result of human activities including power generation, transport, agriculture and industry.
A small group of skeptics – some of them in the Trump White House – believe this is a hoax that could damage business.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), had supported staying in the pact. He said the United States will continue efforts to reduce its emissions despite Trump’s decision.
“It was a policy decision and I think it’s important that everyone recognize the United States has a terrific record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions,” Tillerson told reporters.
A number of figures from U.S. industry expressed their dismay at Trump’s move.
Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of U.S. conglomerate General Electric (GE.N), tweeted: “Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk, and Walt Disney (DIS.N) CEO Robert Iger said they would leave White House advisory councils after Trump’s move.
German industry associations also criticized Trump’s decision, warning that it would harm the global economy and lead to market distortions.
Germany’s DIHK Chambers of Commerce and VDMA engineering industry group warned that U.S. companies could gain short-term advantages by Trump’s decision.
“Climate protection can be pushed forward in an effective and competition-friendly way only by all states,” said DIHK President Eric Schweitzer.
Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said on television the withdrawal would help keep U.S. energy markets competitive, allowing for a potential for coal. Coal industry officials have said the sector hopes only to slow the economic bleeding that has come with a glut of cheaper and cleaner natural gas.
On Thursday, the U.S. Sierra Club, an environmental group, was scathing about Trump’s endorsement of what he regards as clean coal. It tweeted: “Clean coal, you can find that next to the unicorns and leprechauns.”
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Yeganeh Torbati and Mohammad Zargham in Washington; Writing by Jeremy Gaunt and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and David Gregorio)