Former President Barack Obama criticized President Donald Trump for announcing on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, characterizing the decision as America vacating its leadership role on the world stage.
Obama, who has refrained from commenting on his successor’s every action in office, did not name Trump in his statement, but nonetheless made clear that he believes Trump’s plan to exit the 2015 agreement will hurt America, economically and otherwise.
“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” Obama said. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
Describing the accord as “the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children,” Obama said it was only possible thanks to “steady, principled American leadership on the world stage.”
“It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well,” Obama said.
Despite Trump frequently criticizing him on Twitter and in public, Obama has only spoken out directly against his successor’s agenda on a few occasions, such as to argue against repeal of the Affordable Care Act, his 2010 health care reform law.
The 2015 agreement signed by 195 countries seeks to decrease carbon emissions and combat climate change. Only two other countries, Syria and Nicaragua, are not part of the agreement.
John Kerry, who was Obama’s secretary of state when the Paris accord was negotiated, also released a blistering statement Thursday, accusing Trump of turning his back on “humanity’s most existential crisis” and describing the move as possibly “the most self-defeating action in American history.”
“The President who promised ‘America First’ has taken a self-destructive step that puts our nation last,” Kerry said. “This is an unprecedented forfeiture of American leadership which will cost us influence, cost us jobs, and invite other countries to walk away from solving humanity’s most existential crisis.”
“For our economy, security, leadership, competitiveness, and health, the clear-cut choice was to remain in the Paris Agreement,” Kerry added. “There is only one reason to instead make this choice: an ignorant, cynical appeal to an anti-science, special-interest faction far outside the mainstream. That is no basis for a decision that will affect billions of lives.”
The former secretary of state called on “cities, states, and businesses of all sizes” to continue honoring the terms of the agreement despite Trump’s decision.