The decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from a major international climate pact quickly reignited the White House’s long-simmering political feud with the tech industry, which had mobilized to defend the Paris agreement in recent months.
Speaking in the Rose Garden on Thursday, Trump charged that the landmark accord — an effort by roughly 190 countries to reduce the world’s carbon emissions — “disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries,” while stressing it left “American workers who I love and taxpayers to absorb the costs.”
But many businesses had spoken favorably about the Paris agreement, including tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Salesforce. Fearing Trump might back out of the pact, those companies in May joined corporate leaders from other industries and bought full-page advertisements in major national newspapers, stressing the carbon-reduction deal “benefits U.S. businesses.”
With Trump’s decision now final, though, many tech leaders found themselves in open war with the White House. The first rebuke came from Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, who said he would cease advising Trump on two business councils he had joined in order to aid the administration on economic issues.
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg similarly blasted Trump’s move, writing in a note to users that it would be “bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children's future at risk.” Amazon tweeted its support for the Paris agreement, as did Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — and Uber took to Medium to call the president’s decision a “disappointment.”
Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook communicated his frustrations in an email to his employees, which said the president’s decision “will have no impact on Apple’s efforts to protect the environment.”
“I know many of you share my disappointment with the White House’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement,” Cook wrote in the note obtained by Recode. “I spoke with President Trump on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to keep the U.S. in the agreement. But it wasn’t enough.”
From Apple to SpaceX, tech companies reacted so strongly on Thursday in part because of the international implications of Trump’s decision. In their national ad campaign, they explained that the climate deal would have expanded “markets for innovative clean technologies,” which would spur economic growth and job creation. And they expressed fear that withdrawing would “expose us to retaliatory measures” from other countries’ governments.
But some of the largest players in clean-energy technologies, like Tesla, live in Silicon Valley — and others, like Apple, have spent years trying to reduce their own carbon footprints. Meanwhile, climate change is one of the most resonant issues in the liberal-leaning, Trump-doubting Bay Area. Just as the employees of tech companies have pushed their executives to take aggressive public stances against Trump on issues like immigration and transgender rights, so too have they agonized for their leaders to challenge the White House on climate change.
To that end, Trump fielded criticism from executives like Google CEO Sundar Pichai after his speech on Thursday:
Disappointed with today’s decision. Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) June 1, 2017
Earlier in the day, it came from Meg Whitman, the leader of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Before the president announced he would withdraw from the Paris agreement, Whitman told CNBC that a break with other major foreign nations would be a “big mistake” for the United States.
Intel and IBM similarly expressed their support for the climate pact. But both companies’ chief executives said Thursday they would continue to advise Trump on economic issues — even as others, like Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger, said they would step down.
Speaking onstage at the Code Conference just yesterday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it would be “stupid” for the United States to withdraw from an agreement that only two countries — Nicaragua and Syria — had previously opted not to sign.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.