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Energy policy

Elon Musk leads CEOs’ full-court press on Paris accord as Trump weighs exit

Elon Musk, right, pictured here with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has said he would drop participation in White House advisory councils if the U.S. leaves the Paris climate accord.

As Donald Trump nears a final decision on the Paris climate agreement, top corporate executives are mounting a last-minute push aimed at persuading the president that the U.S. has more to lose from abandoning the accord.

The appeals from chief executives such as Tesla Inc.'s Elon Musk, Tim Cook of Apple Inc. and Dow Chemical Co.'s Andrew Liveris come as Mr. Trump's advisers also present him with closing arguments on the potential risks and rewards of remaining a party to the global pact. Mr. Trump also got an earful from foreign leaders and Pope Francis urging him to stay in the agreement during his first international trip as president.

Mr. Cook placed a call to the White House on Tuesday to urge the president to keep the U.S. in the agreement, according to a person familiar with the move. Mr. Liveris was the driving force behind a letter from 30 major company executives backing the deal. And Mr. Musk tweeted Wednesday that he has “done all I can to advise directly to" Mr. Trump. If the U.S. leaves Paris, Mr. Musk said he would drop participation in White House advisory councils.

Corporate leaders "are continuing to try to get through to the White House in any and every way they can," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, the non-profit sustainability advocacy that works with investors. They "are particularly important stakeholders for this president," she said.

The executives are trying to capitalize on Trump's "America first" ideology by warning that a withdrawal would put the U.S. at a disadvantage in a global race to develop and deploy clean-energy technology, potentially ceding that market opportunity to China, the world's top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

A television advertisement that began running Wednesday cites 10 of "America's biggest CEOs," including JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon and General Electric Co.'s Jeffrey Immelt, as backing the climate pact "because it will benefit American manufacturing and generate jobs."

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would announce his decision on the Paris accord "over the next few days." While Trump is leaning toward exiting the pact, according to people familiar with the White House deliberations, the situation remained fluid amid intense last-minute lobbying. The people requested anonymity because Mr. Trump's decision has not yet been officially announced.

The president's verdict will be driven by "what's best for the United States," said Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, during Trump's recent trip abroad.

Twenty-five companies, including Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp. and PG&E Corp., have signed on to a letter set to run as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Thursday arguing in favor of climate pact.

"By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth," the open letter says. "U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets. Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to them and could expose us to retaliatory measures."

Some companies that favor continued U.S. involvement in the deal stand to benefit directly from greater worldwide demand for lower-emission technology and energy sources, such as natural gas and renewable power. For instance, natural gas producers Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC have endorsed the pact, as has Cheniere Energy Inc., which exports liquefied natural gas.

Campaign issue

Not all corporations are in line on the Paris agreement. Some coal producers, including Murray Energy Corp., vociferously oppose the pact.

Robert E. Murray, the founder and chief executive officer of the mining company, told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday that Mr. Trump has a responsibility to fulfill his campaign pledges and jettison the agreement. The president should "listen to those who voted for him," Mr. Murray said.

Others warn that U.S. companies could face repercussions globally, including consumer-driven boycotts of their products.

“The business community has spoken with a loud and clear voice that if the decision is to leave Paris it not in line with the thinking of the vast majority of mainstream business in the United States," said David Stearns, communications director for The B Team, a group of corporate leaders urging sustainable practices. "If you look at every sector — financial, banking, major employers, high-tech, oil and gas, coal companies — they've all been saying that staying in Paris makes sense from a number of perspectives."