International leaders respond to Paris decision with anger, criticism

Germany, Italy, and France said the agreement could not be renegotiated.

New French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wave to journalists at the chancellery in Berlin Monday, May 15, 2017. CREDIT: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP
New French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wave to journalists at the chancellery in Berlin Monday, May 15, 2017. CREDIT: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP

World leaders harshly rebuked President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris agreement Thursday, saying a renegotiation would not be possible.

Signed in 2015, the accord brought together nearly every country in the world in an effort to prevent more than 2°C of global warming. Trump’s decision to withdraw was almost immediately derided as bad for both foreign relations and the country’s leadership position.

On a call following the announcement, White House officials said that U.S. contributions to climate action would be renegotiated. “There is no question that other countries, particularly our allies and partners, and other major emitters are going to want to sit down with us,” said one senior official. “There is no question that there will be interest in doing so.”

But Germany, France, and Italy released a joint statement shortly after the announcement asserting that the Paris accord could not be renegotiated, immediately contradicting the administration’s claims.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the statement from Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron read.

Other world leaders were also quick to slam the decision to leave the agreement. European Union Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete tweeted that the occasion marked a “sad day” for the world, but that Europe would rise to the challenge.

In a series of tweets, Cañete added that, “The #ParisAgreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change. The EU will strengthen existing partnerships and seek new alliances from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. Today’s announcement has galvanised us rather than weakened us, and this vacuum will be filled by new broad committed leadership.”

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the decision a “major disappointment,” and Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s environment minister, warned that the decision would harm the United States more than anyone else.

“The damage this causes to multilateral cooperation is even more severe than the damage done to international climate action,” Hendricks said. “By leaving, the [U.S.] administration is throwing away a precious opportunity for forward-looking development in the United States. This decision harms the United States itself most of all.” Her comments were echoed by Manfred Weber, a member of Merkel’s party, who tweeted that the United States was no longer a “reliable partner” in the fight against climate change.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called upon the leaders of other major cities to fight the threat of climate change. “As Mayor of London, I remain committed to the Paris Agreement and working with other world cities on solutions to tackling emissions, harmful pollutants and safeguarding the environment,” read a statement from Khan. “We cannot overlook the fact that climate change remains one [of] the biggest environmental risks to humanity.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel condemned the move as a “brutal act,” and former Mexican President Vicente Fox tweeted that Trump’s action “condemns this generation and those to come,” adding that, “United States has stopped being the leader of the free world.” Asserting Canada’s commitment to tackling climate change, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted his disappointment and concern.

Numerous figures cautioned Trump against exiting the deal prior to the announcement. In a joint letter, Nordic leaders pleaded with Trump to show “global leadership,” and stick with the accord. In remarks yesterday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Trump did not understand the agreement — or that leaving would take several years, notably concluding the day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“We tried to explain that to Mr. Trump,” Juncker said. “It seems that our attempt failed, but the law is the law, and it must be obeyed. Not everything which is law and not everything in international agreements is fake news, and we have to comply with it.”

Seeking to offset the damage from Trump’s announcement, China and the European Union are expected to declare a joint commitment to combatting climate change and upholding the Paris agreement Friday.

“The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever,” a statement from European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, along with European Council President Donald Tusk, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang read.

Exiting the deal makes the United States one of only three countries that will not be party to the accord. Nicaragua has abstained, saying the agreement did not go far enough, while Syria is in the midst of a brutal and bloody civil war. But a U.S. exit is notable for other reasons — as the world’s second biggest carbon emitter after China (which, unlike the United States, is also the world’s largest producer of renewable energy), U.S. leadership on climate change has been considered crucial. Now, it is likely that European countries will partner with China as they work to meet the Paris agreement’s demands — leaving the United States behind.

During Thursday’s announcement, made from from the Rose Garden, Trump repeatedly said the deal was “bad” for the United States and good for other countries, adding, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”