Good Riddance to the Paris Accord

COMMENTARY Environment

Good Riddance to the Paris Accord

Jun 12th, 2017 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Nicolas Loris

Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy

Nick is an economist who focuses on energy, environmental, and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow.
President Donald Trump delivers his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change in the Rose Garden of the White House June 1, 2017. Joyce N. Boghosian/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Key Takeaways

The Paris Protocol was a losing proposition for American taxpayers and households and businesses that rely on affordable, reliable energy.

Business leaders fail to consider what Paris would (or wouldn’t do) to affect global temperatures.

Energy poverty is a clear, immediate concern, and the role that fossil fuels have played in making peoples’ lives easier, healthier and cleaner is undeniable.

The Akron Beacon Journal editorial board slammed President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, arguing that he’s ignoring the problem of climate change and being derelict in his leadership duties (“Trump gets out of Paris,” June 5). The reality is that Paris is a costly agreement that will not result in any meaningful climate impact.

The Paris Protocol, which committed the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels, was a losing proposition for American taxpayers and households and businesses that rely on affordable, reliable energy.

Coal (58 percent) and natural gas (24 percent) accounted for 82 percent of Ohio’s net electricity generation in 2015. If enforced, the domestic regulations associated with Paris act as a massive back-door energy tax that will reverberate throughout the state’s economy, and across the country, as nearly everything we make requires energy.

The Beacon Journal editorial was right in labeling Paris a weakly constructed agreement. Closer inspection of other countries’ commitments indicates that Paris perpetuates a business-as-usual scenario.

For instance, India pledged to reduce its emissions intensity, or cuts in the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to gross domestic product. The ratio will go down so long as CO2 emissions rise less rapidly than GDP, but CO2 emissions will continue to rise, and they could rise significantly.

China promised to peak emissions in 2030 but already falsified its CO2 emissions and lied about how many coal-fired power plants it is building.

Pakistan noted in its nationally determined contribution that the “peaking of emissions in Pakistan is expected to take place much beyond the year 2030. An exponential increase of GHG emissions for many decades is likely to occur before any decrease in emissions can be expected.”

Small wonder that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change projected that the accord would avert a mere 0.2 degrees Celsius of warming by the turn of the century. Paris being a weak, expensive symbolic agreement isn’t a reason to stay in. It’s all the more reason to get out.

The Beacon Journal also mentioned that Trump ignored the pleas of the business community. Both Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and General Electric Chairman Jeff Immelt disapproved of the decision, tweeting out that climate change is real.

Yes, it is real. That’s about as remarkable as saying the sky is blue. Sure, man-made emissions are affecting the climate. But it doesn’t say anything about how much man-made emissions are affecting the planet, the rate at which the climate is changing.

Most important, these business leaders fail to consider what Paris would (or wouldn’t do) to affect global temperatures.

Actually, the business community’s support for Paris isn’t all too surprising. Established industries often see regulations as a tool to increase compliance costs for foreign or smaller competitors that lack the familiarity or resources to deal with onerous requirements. Big business wants a seat at the table, but most others lose out.

Let’s not forget one of the most corrupt energy companies in the world, Enron, supported energy regulations. The Cato Institute’s Tim Carney writes, “Enron was a tireless advocate of strict global energy regulations supported by environmentalists. Enron also used its influence in Washington to keep laissez-faire bureaucrats off the federal commissions that regulate the energy industry.”

Proponents of Paris ignore a stark reality. More than a billion people lack access to affordable, dependable energy. Two billion people are still burning dung for their indoor stoves. Energy poverty is a clear, immediate concern, and the role that fossil fuels have played in making peoples’ lives easier, healthier and cleaner is undeniable.

Yes, developing nations are investing in renewables, but they’re also building coal-fired power plants at record pace and will continue to do so. There is no doubt that developing countries are prioritizing access to energy. Besides, they have more pressing and tangible environmental concerns.

The Beacon Journal editorial board called Trump’s withdrawal a failure of leadership. Similarly, Mitt Romney tweeted that “Affirmation of the #ParisAgreement  is not only about the climate: It is also about America remaining the global leader.” How does doing what everyone else is doing for no measurable impact signify leadership?

Real leadership is doing what’s right when everyone else is telling you otherwise. President Trump did that by fulfilling his campaign promise to cancel Paris.

This piece originally appeared in The Akron Beacon Journal.