Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

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 lettersent 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.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.