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Science & Environment

Despite Pressure From Some CEOs, U.S. Withdraws From Climate Pact

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're now going to hear from a member of the Trump administration. Wilbur Ross is the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. He joins us now on the line. Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us. We just heard former Secretary of State John Kerry argue that the Paris deal was not a burden on the United States. How specifically was this agreement, do you believe - how was it going to hurt the country's economy?

WILBUR ROSS: Well, there are the forecasts that have been made by the BERA - the group - that shows that it would cost the economy $3 trillion dollars by 2040. That's a big number. Same study shows that it would cost millions of U.S. jobs, approximately 6 and a half million by 2040. Those are very big numbers. And of that 6 and a half million, 3.1 million would be manufacturing-sector jobs. These are not forecasts by the administration. These are forecasts by a third party.

MARTIN: Although, at the same time, as you know, so-called green jobs - jobs in the renewable sector and in technology that helps prevent the effects of climate change - that industry is growing. Jobs are being created at an incredibly fast pace in there.

ROSS: Well, but this is a net figure, not a gross figure. So this is net of the green jobs that might be created. A lot of the green jobs, especially in solar, are actually being created in China, not here.

MARTIN: Which is all the more reason, many CEOs argue, that the U.S. should be in that game, that the U.S. needs to be at the table when it comes to climate change. Otherwise, China will take the lead in this industry. Are you comfortable with the U.S. removing itself from the table?

ROSS: Well, first of all, the U.S. is not removing itself from environmental concerns. President made it clear that he will either try to negotiate a totally new agreement or modify the existing Paris Agreement. Paris Agreement lets China increase pollution every year for quite a few years out into the future. Meanwhile, we're supposed to be front-ending money to the developing countries. That does not strike me as a very balanced or thoughtful agreement.

MARTIN: I don't have to tell you that there have been a lot of business leaders who've spoken out against the president's decision, too many to name - but just a couple, Elon Musk of SpaceX resigned from a presidential task force because of this. So did Bob Iger of Disney. Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that this decision is a, quote, "setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world." Do you discount those views?

ROSS: Well, those folks weren't supporters of the president to begin with. Musk was not a supporter of President Trump. Neither was Bob Iger. And I'm pretty sure Lloyd Blankfein was not.

MARTIN: Although, they were on the president's economic task force.

ROSS: Surely - because what the president wanted was a diversity of views on the council, just as he welcomes a diversity of views within the Cabinet so that he gets to hear all points of view before he makes the big decisions.

MARTIN: In closing, Mr. Secretary, are you concerned about the message this sends to the world about our leadership role and whether we're willing to hold up our commitments?

ROSS: No, I don't think it does at all. All it says is that he's pro environment, but he's against bad deals.

MARTIN: Wilbur Ross, U.S. secretary of commerce, thanks so much.

ROSS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: June 2, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
During this conversation, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross misspeaks. The study he says was done by the "B-E-R-A Group" was in fact done by NERA Economic Consultants. It is posted here.

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