President Donald Trump has continued to dodge the question over whether he still believes climate change is a “hoax”, as the world becomes more convinced it can reach its climate goals without the US government.
As grassroots support of the Paris climate agreement mounts among US state governors, mayors and companies in defiance of Mr Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
US billionaire, philanthropist and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said Americans would honour the agreement and lead “from the bottom up”, also pledging $US15 million ($A20 million) to the cause.
Mr Bloomberg said mayors, governors and business leaders from both political parties were signing onto a statement of support to submit to the United Nations.
“Washington can’t stop our climate progress. Americans will fulfil the #ParisAgreement by leading from the bottom up,” he said in a Twitter post.
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met European leaders in Brussels on Saturday (AEST) to reaffirm their joint commitment to the accord and to “Mother Earth”.
“To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path so we’re successful for our Mother Earth,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the meeting.
The majority of Americans, 69 per cent of US voters, believe their government should participate in the agreement, according to an opinion poll carried out by Yale University’s program on climate change communication.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said US efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also continue despite Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
The former chief executive of energy company Exxon Mobil was reportedly among advisors encouraging Mr Trump to remain in the deal, arguing it was good for US business.
“The United States has a terrific record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions. It’s something I think we can be proud of and that was done in the absence of the Paris agreement,” Mr Tillerson said on Friday.
Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk also assured his commitment to the Paris agreement on Twitter.
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Meanwhile, many other corporate figures in the US have expressed dismay and a collective determination to press ahead with initiatives.
Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of US giant General Electric, tweeted: “Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
Mr Trump claimed withdrawing the country from the Paris climate accord would protect the US from an economic crisis and protect American jobs.
“My obligation is to the American People,” Mr Trump said.
“The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.”
It remains unclear if Mr Trump believes in climate change with the White House refusing to confirm his position.
In a heated White House press conference on Saturday (AEST), journalists kept probing for a definitive answer.
“I’m just hoping you can clear this up once and for all. Yes or no, does the President believe that climate change is real and a threat to the United States?” the journalist asked.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt refused to answer the question, saying his discussions with the President for the last several weeks had been focussed on the “singular issue” of whether the Paris agreement was good, or not, for the country.
The Australian government has confirmed its commitment to the Paris agreement and says its disappointed by Mr Trump’s decision.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said the US withdrawal from the accord should not prompt other leaders to walk away from their commitments to climate change action.
– with ABC