Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders are speaking out against President Trump's decision today to yank the US out of the Paris climate agreement in which 177 nations pledged to reduce their carbon emissions. Cook addressed employees in an internal email, while other CEOs made their comments on social media.
Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and many other tech companies have struggled to determine what their relationship with the Trump administration would be, and it seemed — in the weeks following the US election, at least — that tech would cosy up to the President-elect in hopes of securing tax deals and business-friendly legislation.
Cook, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Microsoft's Satya Nadella all attended a meeting with Trump prior to his inauguration, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick joined some of Trump's advisory councils. While Kalanick eventually resigned from the council, Musk remained on board, arguing that he'd have better luck swaying Trump's thinking if he kept his seat. Musk resigned from the council today following Trump's announcement on the Paris Agreement.
Trump's positions on immigration and climate change have begun to drive wedges between him and the executives he once praised as uniquely talented. Hundreds of tech firms signed amicus briefs opposing Trump's travel bans, and today tech leaders are condemning his decision on the Paris Agreement.
In an email to Apple staff obtained by Gizmodo, Cook said he spoke to President Trump on Tuesday and tried to convince him to keep the US in the agreement. "But it wasn't enough," Cook wrote.
Cook went on to reaffirm Apple's commitment to the environment and renewable energy:
We power nearly all of our operations with renewable energy, which we believe is an example of something that's good for our planet and makes good business sense as well.
We will keep working toward the ambitious goals of a closed-loop supply chain, and to eventually stop mining new materials altogether. Of course, we're going to keep working with our suppliers to help them do more to power their businesses with clean energy. And we will keep challenging ourselves to do even more.
Zuckerberg promised similar commitments to renewable energy in a Facebook post.
"Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children's future at risk," he wrote. "For our part, we've committed that every new data center we build will be powered by 100% renewable energy."
Like Cook, Microsoft president Brad Smith said his company lobbied the Trump administration to remain in the agreement, trying to persuade him there was a "business case" for doing so.
"Microsoft believes that climate change is an urgent issue that demands global action. We have a longstanding commitment to sustainability, which includes operating 100 per cent carbon neutral and setting goals to increase the amount of green energy to power our operations," Smith wrote in a post. "We all live on a small planet and every nation needs to work with others to protect it."
If Trump's attempts at a travel ban weren't enough of a wake up call for the industry, his actions today should be. As Musk seems to have learned, a seat at the table doesn't help much if no one at that table is listening. Tech industry leaders are going to have to find other ways of championing the causes they care about, because it appears that America's businessman-in-chief isn't very impressed by them after all.