When President Donald J. Trump announced Tuesday that he was walking back on a key plank of the U.S. plan to live up to the Paris Climate Agreement, many were angry but few were surprised.
The surprise came on Wednesday as it emerged that Trump’s decision to roll back the Clean Power Plan — which makes it “virtually impossible for the U.S. to fulfill its commitment to the historic 2015 climate agreement — went against the advice of even the world’s largest oil company, ExxonMobile.
On Wednesday, March 22, almost a week before Trump issued an executive order ending key restrictions on carbon emissions, ExxonMobile wrote to the president urging him to maintain U.S. compliance with the international agreement which came into effect in 2016.
Peter Trelenberg, Exxon’s manager for environmental policy and planning, wrote in the letter that the agreement is “an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change,” adding that it was “prudent that the United States remain a party to the Paris agreement.”
While Trump’s order on Tuesday does not officially end U.S. compliance with the Paris Accord, the decision to end restrictions on coal-fired power plants was widely seen as a clear rejection of the accord by the U.S. administration.
Combined with Trump’s campaign promises to “cancel” the Paris Accord, Tuesday’s move was widely condemned for jeopardizing what some see as the “last chance” to reduce the possibility of catastrophic climate change.
However, the very fact that Exxon so strongly endorses the international agreement points to its weaknesses.
In the letter, Exxon praises the Paris Agreement because it “ensures a level playing field, so that global energy markets remain as free and competitive as possible.”
In other words, one of the world’s most profitable companies — one which spent decades funding climate change denialism despite knowing that its business model endangered the entire planet — likes the agreement because it sidestepped efforts to hold those largely responsible for the climate crisis accountable to its victims.
Not only did the plan avoid demands for “climate reparations” to impoverished countries, but it largely holds developing countries as responsible for reducing emissions as rich, early-industrialized nations.
Critics also point to the fact that the carbon emission levels for each country are only voluntary targets, unenforceable by international laws or treaties, surely another benefit for U.S.-based Exxon which is currently facing several major lawsuits related to its climate destroying activities.
One of those lawsuits directly involves Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who worked at Exxon for more than 30 years and is accused of helping defraud investors by covering up evidence of the causal links between fossil fuel use and climate change.