It remains to finally be determined whether or not President Trump will follow through on a promise to withdraw U.S. participation from the non-binding Paris Climate “treaty” signed by his predecessor just prior to leaving office last September. Either way, that decision will have major impacts upon the future of Trump’s economic agenda and America’s competitive global trade position with China and other nations.
It’s beginning to look like the President is going to stand by his pledge despite contrary pressures from his daughter Ivanka, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Ivanka’s high-level policy advisor husband Jared Kushner. Trump has announced plans to offer a public decision statement by mid-May.
Speaking at an April 29 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rally on the occasion of his 100th day in office, the President described the Paris deal as another one-sided international agreement “where the United States pays billions of dollars while China, Russia, and India have contributed and will contribute nothing.” He added, “On top of that, it’s estimated that full compliance with the agreement could ultimately shrink America’s GDP by $2.5 trillion over a 10-year period. That means factories and plants closing all over our country. Here we go again. Not with me, folks.”
That Obama pledge committed the U.S. to a 26% to 28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, compared to a 2005 baseline. Worse, it contains an escalator clause requiring even more stringent cuts every five years without time limit or provisions for Senate advice and consent.
In addition, the Obama State Department quietly transferred $1 billion in taxpayer money to the UN’s Green Climate Fund without congressional authorization.
Much of the planning and momentum for the Paris deal got traction during the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit where China and India successfully rejected any treaty that would cap their CO2 emissions. Obama’s representative, Ted Stern, advocated a familiar solution that originated with the Kyoto protocol . . . namely to get China to agree by exempting them, along with more than 100 other developing countries, from obligations to be borne by Western nations.
Believing that not even an unlikely election of a Republican president in 2016 would be able to overcome international pressures from cooperating countries, Stern’s Paris strategy was also once again to bypass the pesky need for Senate approval. That confidence crashed “bigly” upon the even more unlikely arrival of Donald J. Trump. His first day in office ended the Obama EPA’s war on coal, aka, “Clean Power Plan.”
As Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) observes in a Washington Times article, “The agreement rests on little more than a president’s handshake.” He points out that “In fact, there was enough bipartisan opposition to the pact that Mr. Obama bypassed sending it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty.”
Barrasso notes that according to National Economic Research Associates Consulting, meeting all of Obama’s commitments to the Paris accord would cost the American economy $3 trillion and 6.5 million industrial sector jobs by 2040.
The pain for China to voluntarily meet their share of cuts would be even greater. Going the fabled renewable solution route, they would have to install 200 gigawatts of wind capacity and 100 gigawatts of solar. That’s more than the U.S., Germany, Britain, and Spain combined.
Any notions that investments in renewable energy will meet China’s growing industrial and consumer demands are illusory. Despite having the world’s largest wind turbine and solar panel programs and massive hydropower projects, coal still produces nearly three-quarters of China’s energy.
Until recently, China has been building a new coal-fired plant about every 7 to 10 days. That fuel consumption amounts to more than 4 billion tons of coal each year, compared to less than 1 billion tons in the U.S., and 600 million tons in the European Union.
While deplorable pollution problems are causing many old plants lacking modern controls to be shuttered, their current coal-powered capacity is expected to grow 50% by 2040. Lacking the U.S. abundance of natural gas, they have little choice.
America, on the other hand, has enormous energy advantages. Thanks to huge fossil resources made accessible through advanced oil and gas field technologies, the U.S. now tops Saudi Arabia and Russia as the leading world energy producer.
Rupert Darwell argues in a February 22 National Review article that major U.S. competitors who sign on to the Paris treaty will hand President Trump “the most favorable trade deal imaginable. Higher costs caused by inefficient and expensive renewables will act as a self-imposed energy tariff on China’s manufacturing exports.”
Darwell is right. By opting out of the Paris anti-fossil politics and supporting the American hydrocarbon revolution, “Donald Trump won’t need to renegotiate any trade deals with China — or anyone else.”