Two Major U.S. Coal Companies Just Got Behind The Paris Climate Agreement

It's a surprising move, but it makes more sense than you think.

President Donald Trump is getting pushback on his vow to exit the Paris Climate Agreement from a surprising place: two of the biggest coal companies in the United States.

Despite being top emitters of the greenhouse gasses the Paris agreement is meant to diminish, the coal companies have urged President Trump to remain in the pact. Why? They don't want to lose their seat at the global energy table.

"The future is foreign markets, so the last thing you want to do if you are a coal company is to give up a U.S. seat in the international climate discussions and let the Europeans control the agenda," a U.S. official told Reuters. "They can't afford for the most powerful advocate for fossil fuels to be away from the table."

The two companies, Cloud Peak Energy and Peabody Energy, confirmed to Reuters that the White House reached out to them for their opinion and they said they wouldn't publicly object to a decision to stay in the agreement. Part of their motivation is to be in the discussions about reducing emissions, which will mean advancing storage technology as well as getting financing for low-emission, coal-powered plants, POLITICO reports.  

If the United States decides to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, it will be doing its best to reduce 2005 emission levels by 26 to 28 percent before 2025. Theoretically, that could require shutting down or at least reforming many of the coal power plants across the country.

That's why other coal companies have remained staunchly against the climate agreement, and why — on the campaign trail — Trump repeatedly promised to "exit" the climate agreement when he took office. 

Despite not fulfilling the promise yet, Trump has taken decisive action against former President Obama's climate-friendly agenda. At the end of March, Trump signed a sweeping executive order meant to reduce the Environmental Protection Agency's role in enforcing climate change regulations. In the long-term, it could mean a loosening on more than just coal industry regulations, but regulations for the auto industry as well.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer says that Trump will decide what to do about the climate agreement during the G7 Summit in May, a meeting of global leaders that will surely include the Paris Climate Agreement on the agenda. The National Resource Defense Council noted that 17 new countries have signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 alone. The 137 countries now signed onto the agreement account for 82 percent of the world's emissions.

While it's unclear what Trump will do, environmentalists have found an unlikely ally in the push to keep America's global commitment intact. 

Cover image: Peter Gudella / Shutterstock

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