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Microsoft Condemns U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

Microsoft was among the numerous tech companies and leading businesses across all industries that spent the last few months with key officials in the Trump administration urging President Trump not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump's decision last week to pull out last week was widely and sharply criticized by IT and business leaders, as well as elected officials at the federal, state and local levels.

For its part, Microsoft was a champion of the agreement from the outset and viewed last week's decision as a key setback. "We believe climate change is an urgent issue that demands global action," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tweeted on Thursday just after the president announced plans to withdraw. "We remain committed to doing our part."

Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, delivered a strong rebuke of the president's announcement. "We are disappointed with today's decision by the White House to withdraw the United States from the landmark, globally supported Paris Agreement on climate change," Smith wrote in a LinkedIn Pulse blog post.

"Continued U.S. participation benefits U.S. businesses and the economy in important and multiple ways," Smith added. "A global framework strengthens competitiveness for American businesses. It creates new markets for innovative clean technologies, from green power to smart grids to cloud-enabled solutions. And by strengthening global action over time, the Agreement reduces future climate damage to people and organizations around the world. We remain steadfastly committed to the sustainability, carbon and energy goals that we have set as a company and to the Paris Agreement's ultimate success. Our experience shows us that these investments and innovations are good for our planet, our company, our customers and the economy."

Trump argued that the agreement would cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million jobs, while slashing annual household incomes by $7,000 or more. "Not only does this deal subject our citizens to harsh economic restrictions, it fails to live up to our environmental ideals," Trump said. "As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States -- which is what it does -- the world's leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world's leading polluters."

A number of major news organizations reported many of the claims Trump made weren't accurate, notably the vast number of jobs that would be lost, the economic impact and potential for blackouts and brownouts. Smith noted that Microsoft spent several months with administration officials, imploring them of the importance of the agreement.

On the eve of the decision, Microsoft joined other key technology providers, including Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel and Salesforce.com, in running full-page ads in the New York Times, New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. According to the ad, presented in the form of a letter to Trump, sticking with the agreement would strengthen U.S. competitiveness, create new jobs with providers of clean energy and reduce long-term risks to businesses that can be harmed by consequences to the environment.

Indeed, Microsoft, now one of the largest datacenter operators in the world, has long endorsed efforts and participated in initiatives aimed at reducing the need for carbon-based energy. Microsoft said five years ago it was 100 percent carbon-neutral, and implemented an internal carbon fee. Since imposing that, Microsoft in November 2016 reported that it has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 8.5 million metric tons, purchased more than 14 billion kilowatt hours of green power and its community projects globally have supported more than 7 million people, all which align with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals

Microsoft was a strong proponent of the Paris Agreement, ratified in early November of last year, and within two weeks participated in the launch of the SMARTer2030 Action ICT industry, joining those in technology, business and policy makers to support the Paris Agreement goals "through public awareness, education and mobilization."

The company's position on the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, as described by Smith, drew mixed reaction in the comments section of his post. Many praised Microsoft's defense of the agreement, while others criticized Smith, saying they shared Trump's view that it wasn't good for America. "Microsoft supports global socialism," Mark Elert, a senior account manager at U.S. Internet, commented. "Apparently Microsoft doesn't actually believe in real science," added Greg Renner, director of information systems at Covenant Services Worldwide.

Another critic, Pat Esposito, a SharePoint and Office 365 consultant who has contributed to Redmond magazine, offered a more measured response, offering Trump the benefit of the doubt. "Let's see what Trump's next move is," Esposito commented. "If he invests the $3B allocated for the accord back into U.S.  green initiatives, perhaps Microsoft and others will follow suit. I say develop the models for success and then bring them to the rest of the world to follow."

I asked him via e-mail why he didn't support the agreement. "Economically, our money will go further spent internally than diluted across the many countries in the accord," he responded. "Lack of binding enforcement, non-guaranteed financing and the fact that several studies indicate even with the plan as configured, it will not have a positive impact. there are other ways we can and must demonstrate a commitment to this world crisis.  Only if Mr. Trump chooses to do nothing should we start calling him out... he's the president, we have to give him a chance to perform."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/05/2017 at 12:02 PM


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