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Trump administration defends Paris pullout amid outpouring of support for the climate pact

June 2, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
The White House stood firmly by President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement on Friday. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt delivered an energetic defense, saying the U.S. has nothing to be apologetic about. But the announcement touched off a chorus of protests around the country and abroad. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Reaction to the president’s announcement yesterday that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement has been unusually fierce on both sides.

And, today, the White House stood firmly by his decision.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. This is slightly less controversial than yesterday, but yesterday was a big service to this country, I will tell you. Thank you very much, everybody.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That was all the president would say about his much-awaited announcement.

Earlier in the day, however, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, delivered an energetic defense.

SCOTT PRUITT, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency: We have nothing to be apologetic about as a country. We have reduced our CO2 footprint to levels of the early 1990s. And that’s been largely accomplished through innovation and technology, not government mandate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nevertheless, the announcement has touched off a chorus of protest both here in the U.S. and abroad.

From Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): The decision of the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is very regrettable, and I’m expressing myself in a very reserved way when I say that. We in Germany, in Europe and in the world are now more determined than ever to pool all our strength to face one of the challenges of humankind.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Paris, France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron offered this appeal reinforced by speaking in English.

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, France: To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them, come and work here with us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both leaders said they wouldn’t renegotiate the deal, as President Trump said he was prepared to do.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, officials from China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, met with European counterparts and reaffirmed their commitment. Support also poured in from the U.S. corporate world. More than two dozen companies, including oil giant Shell, Apple, Facebook and Morgan Stanley, had signed a letter urging Mr. Trump to stay in the pact.

Separately, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and Tesla chief Elon Musk argued the move would cost the U.S. jobs. Disney’s chief, Bob Iger, joined Musk in resigning from presidential advisory committees in protest.

Peabody Energy,one of the country’s largest coal companies, did come out in support of the president’s decision.

And Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said continued dialogue was necessary at an event moderated by NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): Rather than make noise over it, we need to create conditions for mutual work, because if countries that are big emitters, like the United States, will not take part at all, it will be impossible to negotiate and sign any kind of agreement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back at the White House, the EPA’s Pruitt said the president has made clear he’s willing to work with anyone on a better deal. But when pressed on whether Mr. Trump actually believes that humans play a role in climate change, Pruitt skirted the question.

SCOTT PRUITT: The discussions the president and I have had over the last several weeks have been focused on one key issue: Is Paris good or bad for this country? He determined it was bad for our country. It hurt us economically. It didn’t achieve good environmental outcomes. And he made the decision to reject the Paris deal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, oil prices tumbled amid speculation the U.S. withdrawal would boost domestic oil production, adding to an already saturated global supply.

We will put some of the facts and claims behind climate change into context right after the news summary.

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