Energy & Environment

Winners and losers in Trump’s Paris decision

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President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate change accord ended a brutal debate within his administration that deeply divided his team.

The fight extended well beyond the White House to Cabinet heads, the business community and foreign leaders.

At the center of it was Trump, who up until the end left his decision in some doubt, despite his campaign statements against the deal.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers from one of Trump’s most momentous decisions yet.


Stephen Bannon

The influence of Trump’s chief political strategist in the Paris decision was hard to miss.

During remarks in the Rose Garden, Trump touted his withdrawal from the pact as another promise kept, while returning to the “America First” theme that fueled much of his campaign.

Perhaps the most memorable line was Trump saying he was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.   

Not long ago, Bannon seemed like he might be on the way out of Trump’s orbit. Since then, he’s made a comeback, and in the Paris deal he won out in a power struggle with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. 

Trump’s decision to exit Paris is one he thinks will play well with his base, and with the Rust Belt states that were critical to his upset win in the election.

Bannon helped put together that strategy, and the Paris decision suggests that Trump both remembers this, and is listening to his senior adviser. 

Scott Pruitt

The leader of the Environmental Protection Agency has been at the forefront of Trump’s push to unravel Obama-era environmental policies.

Like Bannon, he won out over other voices in the administration such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

He was rewarded with a chance to speak in the Rose Garden.

“Mr. President, you have corrected a view that was paramount in Paris that somehow the United States should penalize its own economy, be apologetic, lead with our chin, while the rest of world does little,” Pruitt said. “Other nations talk a good game; we lead with action — not words.”

Pruitt followed up with an appearance Friday afternoon in the White House briefing room.

Mitch McConnell and other conservatives in Congress

Trump’s decision is a popular one with congressional Republicans.

It is particularly popular with McConnell (R-Ky.), a fierce critic of the pact who is a defender of the coal industry. 

McConnell and 21 other Republicans urged Trump to get out of the deal in a letter sent days before Trump’s decision. 

They were cheering on Thursday.


Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law are considered among the most powerful forces in the White House — but the Paris decision shows that their influence has limits.

The two were notably absent from the president’s announcement in the Rose Garden on Thursday, though Ivanka Trump was reportedly at home observing the Jewish holiday Shavuot, and Kushner had only been at the White House earlier in the day for a meeting.

For months, the couple had lobbied the president to stay in the climate deal. Ivanka Trump even brought former vice president Al Gore to Trump Tower to make the case.

While Trump appeared to waffle at times, he ultimately stuck with his campaign promise.

That the camp led by Bannon and Pruitt triumphed in the debate is casting doubt on the idea that the first daughter and senior adviser can act as a moderating force in the White House.

“With Ivanka, we thought at least we’ll always have Paris,” Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz told Politico on Thursday. “But that turned out to be fiction, too.”

Rex Tillerson

Thursday was a defeat for Trump’s secretary of State, the former Exxon CEO who thought the U.S. had much to gain by remaining in the Paris deal.

Since taking office in February, there have been questions about Tillerson’s influence and role in the administration.

Trump has signaled an interest in cutting Tillerson’s agency to the bone, and his exit from a pact entered by nearly every other country on the globe says something about what he thinks of diplomacy.

Losing the internal fight over climate change will do nothing to raise perceptions about Tillerson’s strength in the Trump administration. 

European allies

American allies in Europe sought to change Trump’s mind last week during the president’s first foreign trip abroad. Pope Francis even handed him a book on climate change to try to sway his opinion.

None of that worked. In fact, some thing the European pressure campaign might have backfired with Trump, who in his remarks on Thursday said foreign countries would no longer be laughing at the United States because of his decision. 

The reaction from Europe has been dramatic. Tabloids blasted Trump’s decision, with one German magazine depicting Trump taking a golf club to the earth. French President Emmanuel Macron struck a defiant tone in his public comments. 

Yet there is also likely worry in Brussels, Berlin and Paris about how to deal with Trump.

At last week’s NATO meeting in Brussels, Trump did not reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to mutual defense. 

Following the G7 summit, German chancellor Angela Merkel painted the future of Europe’s relationship with the U.S. as uncertain, saying “the times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out.”

Former President Obama

Trump’s decision, assuming it is not reversed, deals a heavy blow to an achievement of the former president’s. 

Minutes before Trump made it official, Obama released a statement blasting his successor, arguing he was rejecting the future. 

The climate decision is just the latest evidence of Trump’s efforts to wipe out his predecessor’s record. 

Trump has had a mixed record so far, as he’s been able to unwind certain Obama regulations but has not, so far, signed legislation repealing ObamaCare.

And on climate, the real key to Obama’s legacy are regulations imposing new limits on emissions from coal plants, something that will be more difficult to undo.

Still, Trump’s decision has to be seen as a setback to the former president, who surely wishes Hillary Clinton had won the White House on Election Day.

The Paris accord

The Paris deal made history as the first truly global attempt to curb the effects of global warming and climate change. But without the commitment of the U.S., the pact could be significantly weakened, though it remains to be seen whether other countries will withdraw.

In the wake of Trump’s decision, Chinese and European Union leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the deal. (China’s influence could rise as a result of Trump’s decision, meaning it has something to gain in terms of international recognition from the U.S. withdrawal.)

Regardless, Trump’s decision will take the U.S. out of international efforts to slow what scientists say are the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

In place of Washington’s commitment, several states and cities in the U.S. have vowed to honor the Paris agreement and work to reduce carbon emissions.

Tags Al Gore Hillary Clinton Mitch McConnell paris climate accord

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