May under fire for weak response to Trump climate deal withdrawal

The prime minister Theresa May has been criticised by opposition parties for her failure to publicly condemn president Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

Announcing the move in a speech at the White House, Trump said that the Paris agreement imposed unfair terms on the US, and represented a ‘massive redistribution of US wealth to other countries’.

‘This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the US,’ he said.

Trump added that he wanted to renegotiate the terms of the agreement so they were more favourable to the US. ‘I’m willing to immediately work with Democrat leaders to either negotiate our way back into Paris, under the terms that are fair to the US and its workers, or to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers… But until we do that, we're out of the agreement,’ he said.

The US will cease the implementation of its greenhouse gas reduction plan and stop payments to the Green Climate Fund, which covers climate adaptation in developing countries, he said.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said it was willing to engage with the US, but that the agreement could not be renegotiated based on the request of a single party.

The leaders of France, Italy and Germany issued a joint statement, saying that the Paris Agreement was irreversible, and could not be renegotiated.

Trump phoned May about his decision, according to a statement from 10 Downing Street: ‘The prime minister expressed her disappointment with the decision and stressed that the UK remained committed to the Paris Agreement.

‘The prime minister and president agreed on the importance of continued cooperation on wider energy issues,’ the statement added.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the prime minister and said: ‘The Paris deal should not be up for renegotiation. The other three European members of the G7, France, Germany and Italy, have written to Donald Trump to make this clear.

‘So why does Theresa May not have her name on this joint statement?

‘Given the chance to present a united front with our international partners, she has instead opted for silence and subservience to Donald Trump,’ he said.

Former Liberal Democrat energy and climate secretary Ed Davey called for Trump’s visit to the UK to be scrapped, adding that it was incumbent on May to join with other European powers and the Chinese to protest Trump’s decision. ‘Theresa May claims she has a special relationship with President Trump, well now’s the time to use it,’ he said.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, called May’s response ‘slow and timid’. ‘A true global leader would be condemning the president's actions, and joining with other European countries to formulate an emergency plan to save the Paris Agreement,’ she said.

Following Trump’s announcement, the EU and China vowed to deepen their commitment to fight climate change.

Environmental campaign groups vehemently condemned Trump’s decision. Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan called it ‘morally bankrupt,’ adding: ‘Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will turn America from a global climate leader into a flat earth society of one.’

Friends of the Earth vowed to fight any trade deal with the US, while the European Environmental Bureau called on the EU to impose economic sanctions on the US.

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor, said that Trump’s decision was deplorable. ‘The reckless actions of a single government must not be allowed to undermine the consensus reached in Paris in 2015.

‘The transition to a low-carbon economy provides significant opportunities and those countries that face up to the challenge will be the ones that gain most economic benefit. The US risks missing out following the backwards step from the Trump government,’ he added.

Business leaders vowed that they would continue to tackle climate change. Michelle Hubert, head of energy and infrastructure at the Confederation of British Industry, said: ‘By investing and innovating, British businesses will be at the heart of delivering a low-carbon economy, and will want to see domestic policies that demonstrate commitment to this goal.’

Business Europe director general Markus Beyrer said: ‘Dialogue with the US on energy and climate issues needs to continue. Other forms of cooperation will have to be found. Europe’s business community will continue to deliver sustainable and yet more cost-efficient business solutions – inside and outside Europe’s borders.’ 

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said that Trump’s decision would not reverse international action on climate change. Several US states have made clear commitments to continue investing in low-carbon technologies and major US businesses such as Walmart have set ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions and increase the use of renewable energy, he noted.

Back to Top