Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and the labor movement came to vastly different conclusions over how withdrawing from a recent multinational climate agreement will impact jobs.
The Paris Climate Accord seeks to address environmental issues mankind might be contributing to. The agreement specifically sought to address greenhouse gas emissions, which many believe are responsible for climate change. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement arguing it wasn’t a good deal for the United States.
“On these issues and so many more, we’re following through on our commitments,” Trump said Thursday at the White House. “I am fighting every day for the great people of this country. Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.”
The decision by the president to withdraw was already being met with political battle lines before it was officially announced. His administration and many others on the right applauded the decision as a good move for the economy. Democratic leaders denounced it as destructive to the environment.
“The United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord is this administration’s bold commitment to promoting pro-growth principles and rebuilding America’s manufacturing base, which was under siege by the Paris accord,” Acosta said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor remains laser focused on ensuring all Americans have access to good, safe jobs and will continue standing arm-in-arm with the American worker.”
National unions expressed a vastly different viewpoint when it came to the decision. While unions traditionally lean left, environmental issues tend to have a bit more of a gray area since so many union members work in industries that would benefit from projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement is a decision to abandon a cleaner future powered by good jobs,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement Thursday. “A deteriorating environment is not the only thing at stake here. When our leaders isolate America from the rest of the world, it hurts our ability to raise incomes for working families and achieve fairness in the global economy.”
The Paris Climate Accord was negotiated by representatives from 195 countries at a 2015 global climate change conference in Paris, France. Former President Barack Obama and his administration became major advocates for the agreement in his final years in office.
“By withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump and his self-interested political allies are killing the creation of new industries and jobs,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said. “Already, in the United States, clean energy jobs vastly outnumber fossil fuel jobs, with solar and wind energy at the forefront.”
President Trump was able to withdraw from the agreement because it wasn’t considered a treaty under domestic law. Obama did not get consent from the Senate which would have been required. Without Senate approval, the president had no legal obligation to uphold the agreement.
“For many years, the United States has been a leader in innovation and technology to combat climate change,” United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard said. “Withdrawing from this non-binding agreement further cedes our strength in this sector to China, and signals to domestic innovators and manufacturers that the United States will not support them.”
Trump has centered his presidency on a promise to help domestic workers and the economy. The president has argued on many occasions that the government has failed workers and companies alike. Reducing Obama-era environmental policies have been a major focus of that message.