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Health, Science & Environment

Utah Mixed On Exiting Paris Climate Deal

Judy Fahys
Critics of President Trump's decsion to quit the Paris climate agreement say the world economy is already shifting toward clean energy, like these solar panels on Salt Lake City's Vivint Smart Home Arena.

President Trump’s decision Thursday to exit and possibly renegotiate the Paris Accord is getting mixed reviews in Utah.

Both of Utah’s U.S. Senators signed a letter last month with 20 Republican colleagues asking Trump to scrap the climate pact. Sen. Mike Lee said in a statement that Trump wasn’t elected so that "taxpayers could send billions of dollars overseas to establish a global crony capitalist slush fund.”      

Sen. Orrin Hatch’s statement said: “I look forward to working with the President to rein in the overregulation of the Obama administration and help America’s businesses compete globally.”

But not all Utahns favor Trump’s move.

“We really are setting a bad precedent and putting our future at stake not only when we look at the environment but also the economy,” said Vicki Bennett, who leads Salt Lake City’s sustainability programs. “It’s not going to change anything we’re doing.”

Bennett points to a bipartisan letter sent by 83 mayors nationwide who oppose President Trump's decision. The mayors have already committed into tapping into alternative energy to reduce emissions on their own. In Salt Lake City, the goal is net-zero energy emissions by 2032.

Utah businesses are also dealing with climate change.

“We support the Paris Agreement and a long-term goal to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius,” said company spokesman Kyle Bennett, reading a statement from Rio Tinto, the mining company’s corporate parent. “We believe it will require companies, governments and society working together to meet the challenge of climate change.”

Rio Tinto has slashed its emissions worldwide by 38 percent between 2008 and 2015, Bennett said.

Meanwhile, the federal Energy Information Agency says Utah’s energy-related greenhouse gas releases climbed slightly between 2000 and 2014, about a .3 percent, while those emissions have declined nationally by 7.5 percent.

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