June 14 (UPI) -- A U.S. federal decision to leave the Paris climate agreement strengthened the resolve of those concerned by climate change, the European president said.
U.S. President Donald Trump started June with a decision to renegotiate national commitments to the climate deal or leave it altogether. Despite the national and international criticism, his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the decision was not isolationist and was made with the interest of the American people in mind.
European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday from Strasbourg the U.S. decision was regrettable.
"Unfortunately, not everyone in the world sees the truth of facts," he said in a parliamentary address. "The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris agreement is more than a sad event. It is a sign of abdication from common action in dealing with the fate of our planet."
In the wake of Trump's announcement, however, several U.S. cities and states have adopted a stance that lines up with the general themes of the international climate accord. Last week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed bills that made his state the first one in the United States to enact legislation that implements parts of the Paris climate deal.
Trump's decision was criticized at home and abroad as handing leadership over to the rival Chinese economy and to Europe, which has clear climate benchmarks outside the Paris climate treaty. Nevertheless, the European president said that, by stepping aside, the United States strengthened the resolve of those committed to action.
"I see a strengthened resolve from all those who care about the future of the planet and who see the opportunities of a modern economy," he said. "This includes partners within the United States such as the states of California, Washington and New York – which taken together would be the world's fourth economy."
Gabriel Marty, a former French negotiator who played a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris deal, said the agreement might actually be stronger without the United States. It's better to have a country that may be "misbehaving" leave than stay in and undermine its intent.