The recent meeting of the G7 in Sicily saw Donald Trump lose what little respect other world leaders had left for him. Today’s announcement that he was withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Accord was in effect his confirmation that he was resigning as world leader.
In his first speech to Congress on 28 March Trump said:
My administration wants to work with members in both parties … to promote clean air and clear water …
Before and since he’s spoken multiple times about how much he “loves the environment”. He just doesn’t want to put any effort into protecting it.
When Trump put out his budget wish list recently, his disdain for the environment was clear despite his words. Any and all spending relating to environmental protection was slashed. He’s now shown his hand. The decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement takes his unsuitability to be president to a new level.
His speech outlining why he made the decision he did shows a lack of understanding of not just the environmental issues, but the surrounding economic, diplomatic and political ones too.
This announcement has been coming for some time. Trump has been listening to arguments from both sides about what to do and that’s good. It seems that listening isn’t the same as understanding though.
I will be announcing my decision on Paris Accord, Thursday at 3:00 P.M. The White House Rose Garden. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2017
Trump’s announcement speech was about thirty minutes long. The Washington Post said it was “… forceful, lengthy and at times rambling …”. You can read the full transcript here (via Vox). Here’s a selection of quotes from the speech.
I am fighting every day for the great people of this country. Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of American citizens. The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries. Leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production. Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the green climate fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune.
He even says in his announcement why this withdrawal makes no sense. “The non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. How can something that is non-binding impose burdens?
Claims of Economic Loss if the US Stays in the Accord
Compliance with the terms of the Paris accord, and the owners, could cost Americans as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates. This includes 440,000 fewer manufacturing jobs, not what we need. Believe me, this is not what we need. Including automobile, they rely on for so much. And we would be giving them so little.
Not only does this deal subject our citizens to harsh economic restrictions, it fails to live up to our environmental ideals. As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States, which is what it does, the world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.
Again, this makes no sense. There are no punishments in the Accord, and most economists actually consider that it is leaving the agreement that will cost the country jobs. There are multiple reasons for this the main ones being:
1. The rest of the world choosing not to do business with the US because they are not part of the Accord.
2. The US no longer being part of committees that make international rules and agreements and therefore having no influence on the decision-making process. As if to make this point, the EU and China immediately made a joint statement about their commitment to battling climate change following Trump’s announcement.
As so often, Trump tries to make the US the victim in all of this. It’s absolute rubbish and displays a misunderstanding of economics, the importance of assisting developing nations, and the value of soft power.
For example, under the agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years, 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us. India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.
Further, while the current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America, which it does, and the mines are starting to open up. They’re having a big opening in two weeks, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places. A big opening of a brand new mine. Unheard of. For many, many years, that hasn’t happened. They asked me if I would go. I’ll try. China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can’t build the plants but they can. According to this agreement, India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production.
This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States. The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.
It’s not true that India, China, and others don’t have to do anything. Their commitments are not as great as developed countries, but they are doing things (see below). It’s also not true that the US can’t do anything in relation to fossil fuels – it’s just that they have to use clean technology. And even then none of these are legal commitments that can be taken to court.
The United States under the Trump administration will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally-friendly country on Earth. We’ll be the cleanest was. We’ll have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, we will be environmentally friendly …
He’s had too much covfefe again.
I’m willing to immediately work Democratic leaders to either negotiate our way back into Paris under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers, or to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers. So if the obstructionists want to get with me, let’s make them non-obstructionists.
This makes no sense and is simply an attempt to make any issues the fault of the Democrats.
The Paris Accord requires countries to make non-binding plans on how they’re going to meet their targets. There’s a renewal date built into all plans. Therefore it’s not necessary to pull out of the Accord to change plans. The Accord doesn’t require anything. It’s about making commitments to do your best.
There is an understanding that there are multiple reasons, including economic ones, why a country may not be able to meet the targets in their plans. Trump can make changes to the plan at any time, with or without input from Democrats.
One of the reasons given for Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord is that he’s honouring a campaign promise. This is no better than any of the other reasons given. Trump has been breaking campaign promises constantly since his election. There’s barely a promise he’s kept. Just today, the same day as he withdrew from the Paris Accord, he broke another campaign promise. One of his biggest, most frequent, and most naïve promises was to shift the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. (A promise all other candidates have made, though he was far more bullish about it.)
Today came the announcement that this wouldn’t happen.
When you become president, you often find that you just can’t honour a campaign promise no matter how much you may want to. Obama found this out via his attempts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Trump could have just made major revisions to the commitments Obama made for the US in the Paris Accord while announcing that he was making things better for America. He wouldn’t have lost any of his supporters and probably got some new ones at least on this issue.
And Back to Playing the Martyr
I will work to make sure the world [sic – Freudian slip?] remains the world’s leader on environmental issues. But under a framework that is fair and with the burdens and responsibilities are equally shared among the many nations all around the world. No responsible leader can put the workers and the people of their country at this debilitating and tremendous disadvantage.
The fact the Paris deal hamstrings the United States, while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries, should dispel any doubt as to the real reason why foreign lobbyists wish to keep our magnificent country can tied up and bound down by this agreement. It is to give their country an economic edge over the United States. That’s not going to happen while I’m president. I’m sorry. My job as president is to do everything within my power to give America a level playing field. And to create the economic regulatory and tax structures that make America the most and tax structures that make most the most prosperous and productive country on Earth, and with the highest standard of living and the highest standard of environmental protection.
The whole speech was, I’m sure, a source of great enjoyment for Trump supporters. It does seem that Trump at least recognizes that the environment is a high priority with US voters. A Gallup poll taken just three months ago shows that a large majority of USians (59%) believe the environment should be prioritized over energy production.
Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Following the announcement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spoke with Jake Tapper of CNN. He didn’t do any better than his boss.
I saw another interview of Pruitt on Fox News. He also failed to convince Brett Baier using the same arguments. As noted above, the logic of pulling out of a non-binding agreement because of what it forces the United States to do just doesn’t fly.
There was a lot of opposition when Trump gave Pruitt the job as head of the EPA. His ties to the fossil fuel industry should have made him ineligible for the position. Before he was head of the EPA he was Oklahoma’s attorney-general for six years. According to the Washington Post, in that time Pruitt:
… repeatedly sue[d] the Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts to regulate mercury, smog and other forms of pollution.
During the confirmation process there were calls for Pruitt to turn over thousands of e-mail exchanges with “oil, gas, and coal companies” due to allegations that legal documents he supposedly wrote on behalf of the state of Oklahoma were actually written by the industry. The Washington Post writes that those fossil fuel firms were also donors to Pruitt’s campaign. They further report:
The National Association of Manufacturers proclaimed Pruitt would “restore balance to the way environmental regulations are developed.” The head of the National Mining Association said he will be “mindful of the costs that regulations can impose on the economy.”
It is no wonder that Pruitt opposes the Paris Accord despite his role as guardian of the environment. With friends like him, who needs enemies.
The opposition of people like Pruitt makes it clear that despite Trump’s protestations, the US will not be the “best in the world” on the environment. The withdrawal is because he wants to please people like coal company representatives who wrote asking him to pull out.
Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce
Wilbur Ross today made this comment about the Paris Accord:
This is not really about climate. This is about US money going to other countries and it didn’t really solve the climate problem. … The only ones who were making a sacrifice were the United States. That’s no agreement at all.
This is a common belief amongst Republicans, and one that Trump shares as his speech shows. Fox Business host Neil Cavuto tried to get Ross’s opinion on some of the reasons the US should not leave the Accord, but to no avail. Ross wouldn’t even say whether he accepted anthropogenic climate change. When Cavuto had a second try, all he got was the “I’m not a scientist” cop out from Ross.
Like his boss Donald Trump, Ross is playing the victim card. He’s going on and on about the different standards in the agreement for China and India. I’m sure he knows perfectly well why they have different targets, but he prefers the tactic that Trump adopts of making everything being unfair in relation to the US.
Supporters of the Paris Accord
Apart from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also tried to persuade Trump to stay in the deal. He recognizes the value of soft power. So do military leaders, which is why former general HR McMaster and current head of the NSA think the US should remain in the Accord.
Oil companies have been making the effort to improve their environmental practices for years and Exxon, Shell, and BP have all said they support the Accord.
Elon Musk told Trump he would pull out of his business advisory group if Trump withdrew from the Accord. He made good on that promise today:
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
He’s not the only one:
As a matter of principle, I've resigned from the President's Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal.
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) June 1, 2017
Many other business leaders also wrote to Trump – some singly and some as a group. All worry that this more will lead to job and profit losses.
Musk also tweeted the following to show that India and China aren’t as bad as Trump is trying to make out and are, in fact, making considerable efforts to improve long before the Accord requires them to:
India commits to sell only electric cars by 2030. It is already the largest market for solar power. https://t.co/EGBNTPzmE5
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Under Paris deal, China committed to produce as much clean electricity by 2030 as the US does from all sources today https://t.co/F8Ppr2o7Rl
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Other Opposition to Trump’s Decision
It goes without saying that there are also multiple Democrats who oppose Trump’s move. Many have released statements and been interviewed by multiple sources.
They include President Obama, who released a statement which you can read here.
Former secretary of state John Kerry on CBS said that Trump was:
… unilaterally walking backwards from science and backwards from leadership on behalf of polluters and fringe ideologues.
He also said to CBS that this move:
… may be the most self-defeating action in American history.
A full transcript of the interview can he seen here.
Green Energy Jobs
This sector of the US economy is one of the fastest growing. There are more jobs in green energy just in California than have been lost in the entire country in the coal sector. Coal is not coming back. It’s like expecting to re-employ farriers.
In January 2017 the US Department of Energy reported that the sector had the following job numbers:
Natural Gas: 362,118
Why Aren’t Targets So Tight For Developing Countries
One of the complaints of those against the Paris Accord is that ten of the top fifteen emitters have easier targets than the US. The US is currently the second top emitter, but until recently is was the worst. That dubious honour has now been taken over by China.
The difference is simply a matter of fairness. Those of us lucky enough to live in developed countries got that way by using huge quantities of fossil fuels. At this stage, many of those fuels are still cheaper than their green alternatives. The third biggest emitter, India, has fairly low targets. However, they’re working hard to modernize their economy to enable them to move away from fossil fuels.
Why Aren’t Syria and Nicaragua Part of the Paris Climate Accord?
Syria, of course, is in the middle of a long-running civil war. Hundreds of thousands are dead and millions are suffering the effects of internal or external displacement. Their president, Bashar al-Assad is no position to negotiate international agreements.
Nicaragua hasn’t become part of the Accord because they don’t consider it tough enough, especially for developed countries. They want it to be much stronger and not signing it is a protest on their part. Nicaragua is working hard to ameliorate the effects of climate change.
The Next Four Years
As I said in a post not long after Trump’s election, Trump can’t withdraw from the Paris Accord before 2020. There’s a negotiation process to go through and a reversal is still possible. All is not lost. However, it will require those who recognize both the dangers of climate change and the value of the Paris Accord to be in political leadership positions in the US. There are already plenty of Republicans in the Senate and Congress who recognize that climate change is a real thing and work must be done to combat it. Unfortunately, few are among leading voices in the party.
And I can’t go without giving Trevor Noah another outing:
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