US President Donald Trump. Picture: KEVIN LAMARQUE
US President Donald Trump. Picture: KEVIN LAMARQUE

Washington — By exiting the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump says he sought to escape an economic straitjacket that would hinder him from making good on his campaign promises and pro-growth agenda.

Elected in no small part, thanks to voters in "rust belt" industrial and mining states, Trump pledged as a candidate to breathe new life into traditional sectors such as vehicle manufacturing, steel and coal mining. He also sought to promote US oil and gas production, which has boomed, thanks to the rise of hydraulic fracturing in shale.

In his announcement on Thursday, Trump said he had been elected to represent the "citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris". That city in Pennsylvania — a state which went narrowly for Trump in November — is an old industrial stronghold where steel and railroad magnate Andrew Carnegie began his empire in the 19th century. But the example was perhaps poorly chosen. US Steel, which was partly formed with Carnegie’s assets, is now only the 11th-largest employer in Pittsburgh, and Democratic mayor Bill Peduto responded to the comment by pledging to adhere to the Paris agreement’s objectives, in spite of Trump.

Trump cited a study that said the Paris agreement "could cost America as much as 2.7-million lost jobs by 2025". He did not cite older statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analy-sis that in 2013 estimated there already were 3.5-million "green" jobs in the American economy. And according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, in 2016, 777,000 people in the US worked in renewable energy, while job growth was 17 times greater in the sector than for the economy as a whole.

In his announcement, Trump said the Paris deal would add too many constraints to US businesses, especially in energy.

The decision to exit the Paris agreement was denounced by some major American companies, which have been working for years to reduce their carbon footprints. "America first" has been Trump’s catchphrase, and he said the climate pact put the US at "a very, very big disadvantage" even though it already had the world’s "highest standard of environmental protection". He did not say that the US was the world’s second-largest carbon emitter after China.

The agreement calls for contributions from rich countries to help poor countries switch to sustainable energy. But Trump said Washington would not contribute, pointing to the $20-trillion US sovereign debt and saying some cities "cannot hire enough police officers or fix vital infrastructure".

Again, he left out the fact that the US is the world’s largest economy, with 25% of global GDP, with an unemployment rate that, as of Friday, is at a 16-year low of 4.3%.


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