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Will Trump Pull Out Of The Climate Deal? He Promised His Base He Would

Jun 1, 2017
Originally published on June 1, 2017 12:09 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There's a reality show quality to the events expected this day. President Trump plans a big reveal, says he will announce whether he is staying or going from the Paris Climate Accord. White House sources have said he'll pull out of the global deal, joining Nicaragua and Syria as the world's only countries not involved.

But then again, when sources said Trump would withdraw from NAFTA, it simply prompted more intensive lobbying and a presidential decision to stay in that deal. So what's at stake for the United States this time? NPR's Nate Rott is covering the story. Hi, Nate.

NATE ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: So let's just remember that while campaigning, President Trump said very clearly he was going to cancel the Paris deal. He considered it unbelievable. And he also said it would create jobs. Let's listen.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to save the coal industry. We're going to save that coal industry. Believe me. We're going to save it.

INSKEEP: OK. Should we believe him? Is canceling the deal going to create coal jobs?

ROTT: No (laughter).

INSKEEP: Thank you very much.

ROTT: Sorry. Yeah. The problem facing the coal industry is a much bigger one. It's that the coal industry's in structural decline. It's not as economical as it once was. You have natural gas which is cheap. It's cleaner. You have renewable energies like wind and solar that are surging across the U.S.

And you also have all these states, cities and private businesses that are making their own commitments to clean energy. California's Senate just yesterday passed a bill that would require the state to use 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

INSKEEP: Wow.

ROTT: And its Governor Jerry Brown who has positioned himself as something of an anti-Trump had this to say after hearing that the president may pull out of the deal.

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JERRY BROWN: California will do everything it can to not only stay the course, but to build more support in other states, other provinces and with other countries.

INSKEEP: Other countries - Jerry Brown's going to have his own foreign policy here.

ROTT: Yeah, potentially.

INSKEEP: So what do people in coal country think, people that the president says he wants to help?

ROTT: Well, there's a lot of different feelings. I mean, people when you go to coal country aren't talking about the Paris Climate Agreement. It's pretty removed from the day to day there. You're more likely to hear about Obama-era regulations, Trump's efforts to undo them, the Clean Power Plan, of course, is at the top of that list. And that was President Obama's biggest effort towards meeting the goals of the Paris accord.

I did make a couple of calls last night and talked to a gentleman in Virginia named Joe Street. He has a conveyor company there and does a lot of work in the coal industry, and he's a Trump fan and says he thinks that Trump will pull out of the climate agreement because he said he would. But as you're going to hear, he's also realistic about his expectations.

If he does pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, like you think he will, do you think it's going to help coal country?

JOE STREET: Well, at this point, the damage has been done. The steam market is not coming back. The power plants aren't coming back. So the only thing that coal people can do is to adjust to what they have.

ROTT: So Street, to be honest - Street is also a - he's a Trump supporter like I said. And he does believe that if Trump leaves the accord, he would be happy about it, so would his neighbors. And that's got to be part of the calculation for Trump here is that if he goes that way, it will resonate with his base.

INSKEEP: But let's think this through. You're telling me that the coal industry would not benefit from withdrawing from the Paris Accord, even if some people would like it on an emotional level. Would other businesses be affected by withdrawing from the Paris Accord?

ROTT: Yeah, potentially. I mean, we've seen scores of companies say that they don't want Trump to do this. Many have lobbied against him, lobbied him to stay in the agreement. And they have a lot of different reasons for that. One of the things that I've kind of talked to some people about is this idea of consistency. And what I mean by that is there's consistency here in the U.S. that companies want. A lot of these industries have been making plans under the impression that the U.S. would be part of this big climate deal.

And it's not easy to change plans like that overnight. The other is this idea of consistency abroad. If you take the auto industry, for example, I was talking to one of our correspondents, Sonari Glinton, about this earlier. And he was saying that if you're a global company like Ford or Toyota, you want to be able to sell the same car here in the U.S. that you would sell in China or South Africa.

INSKEEP: Oh, I understand why. Go on. Yeah. OK.

ROTT: So if the world is moving in one direction - right? - on something like auto emissions, as you'd imagine that it would under something like the Paris Accord, and the U.S. decides to move another, it makes it hard for business.

INSKEEP: We're just talking about business here. But can I just mention the climate? Since it's a climate deal...

ROTT: That's fair.

INSKEEP: ...Does the climate get worse if the United States withdraws from the Paris Accord?

ROTT: I think that is a fair thing to say. Even under the Paris Accord, it would be really, really hard to stay underneath the 2 degrees Celsius increase in temperature that scientists have warned us about. Without the U.S., the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, there is a real concern that collectively countries will do even less than they agreed to.

INSKEEP: NPR's Nate Rott, thanks very much.

ROTT: Hey. Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.