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Elon Musk leads CEOs’ full-court Paris press as Donald Trump weighs exit

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-06-2017 Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Washington: As Donald Trump nears a final decision on the Paris climate agreement, top corporate executives are mounting a last-minute push aimed at persuading the president that the US has more to lose from abandoning the accord.

The appeals from chief executives such as Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk, Tim Cook of Apple Inc. and Dow Chemical Co.’s Andrew Liveris come as Trump’s advisers also present him with closing arguments on the potential risks and rewards of remaining a party to the global pact. Trump also got an earful from foreign leaders and Pope Francis urging him to stay in the agreement during his first international trip as president.

Cook placed a call to the White House on Tuesday to urge the president to keep the US in the agreement, according to a person familiar with the move. Liveris was the driving force behind a letter from 30 major company executives backing the deal. And Musk tweeted Wednesday that he has “done all I can to advise directly to” Trump. If the US leaves Paris, Musk said he would drop participation in White House advisory councils.

Corporate leaders “are continuing to try to get through to the White House in any and every way they can,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, the non-profit sustainability advocacy that works with investors. They “are particularly important stakeholders for this president,” she said.

The executives are trying to capitalize on Trump’s “America first” ideology by warning that a withdrawal would put the US at a disadvantage in a global race to develop and deploy clean-energy technology, potentially ceding that market opportunity to China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

A television advertisement that began running Wednesday cites 10 of “America’s biggest CEOs,” including JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon and General Electric Co.’s Jeffrey Immelt, as backing the climate pact “because it will benefit American manufacturing and generate jobs.”

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would announce his decision on the Paris accord “over the next few days.” He later told reporters he was hearing from many people on both sides of the issue.

While Trump is leaning toward exiting the pact, according to people familiar with the White House deliberations, the situation remained fluid amid intense last-minute lobbying. The people requested anonymity because Trump’s decision has not yet been officially announced.

It was unclear Wednesday whether the corporate appeals would have much influence. Asked about Musk’s threat to forfeit his role on several of Trump’s advisory councils, White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted “the president has a lot of people who he gets a lot of input from.” “Let’s wait and see what the president’s decision is,” Spicer said.

Twenty-five companies, including Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp. and PG&E Corp., have signed on to a letter set to run as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Thursday arguing in favour of the climate pact, and warning of potential “retaliatory measures” by other nations.

“By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth,” the open letter says. “U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets. Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to them and could expose us to retaliatory measures.”

Some companies that favour continued US involvement in the deal stand to benefit directly from greater worldwide demand for lower-emitting energy sources, such as natural gas and renewable power. For instance, natural gas producers Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc have endorsed the pact, as has Cheniere Energy Inc., which exports liquefied natural gas.

Not all corporations are in line on the Paris agreement. Some coal producers, including Murray Energy Corp., oppose the pact. Robert E. Murray, the founder and chief executive officer of the mining company, told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday that Trump has a responsibility to fulfill his campaign pledges and jettison the agreement. The president should “listen to those who voted for him,” Murray said.

Environmentalists are hoping the corporate advocacy will have more influence with the president, as they haven’t been able to get traction.

“It’s up to world leaders and responsible companies like Apple and Tesla to use whatever influence they have with Trump while they can,” said Travis Nichols, a spokesman for Greenpeace USA. “Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement would turn America from a global climate leader into a global climate deadbeat. These companies are on the right side of history.” Bloomberg

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