The Paris Agreement Won’t Help Our Country, or Planet
Actions speak louder than words. But my, how politicians love words. Especially when it comes to climate change.
For four years, the left has bemoaned the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. They’ve claimed it “endanger[s] the future of our planet.” Supposedly, we were falling behind the rest of the world while the climate clock of doom ticked toward midnight.
As he promised during the campaign, Joe Biden is set to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement on day one of his administration. More recently, President-elect Biden appointed John Kerry, the original signer of the Paris Agreement, as special climate envoy. Kerry plans to sign the Paris document again, and then take further steps. “It has to be stronger,” Kerry told NBC.
That’s music to the ears of Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and their leftist liberal followers. According to their way of thinking, real results can only come from internationally binding agreements that are hammered out over lavish meals in fancy hotels.
So where does the U.S. stand relative to the rest of the world on addressing climate change by reducing carbon emissions? The facts might surprise you.
The U.S. had the world’s largest energy-related emissions reductions in the year 2019, after the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Private companies, including big oil producers, have set their own net-zero emissions reduction goals and are making significant investments in clean energy, all without the U.S. being a part of the Paris Agreement. The country doesn’t need to sign a treaty, but it does need to keep making progress to reduce emissions.
Meanwhile, the developed nations that have stayed in the Paris Agreement are failing to meet their emissions goals. They are all talk, and no action on emissions.
Take China, for example. China emits more carbon dioxide than the U.S. and the European Union combined. But the rules of the Paris Agreement give it something even better than a free pass, allowing Beijing to increase its carbon emissions until the year 2030. And it faces no penalty if it fails to meet even that lowly commitment. No wonder China is building dirty energy plants at home while helping other countries do the same.
As for developing nations that signed Paris, some now admit that their greenhouse gases will continue to rise past their peak emissions target date of 2030.
Instead of wasting time and taxpayer money on multinational pacts, public policy leaders should promote freer markets that unleash innovations to solve climate problems. The government can help foster an environment where innovation can flourish while kick-starting specific needs, similar to the space program. But it’s the private sector – inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and businesses who make innovation a reality.
Rather than rejoining an unworkable deal that benefits China and handicaps America, the federal government should eliminate barriers that prevent further progress at home. Open the door to more development and export of nuclear energy – one of the cleanest energy sources around. End the heavy-handed mandates that make it virtually impossible for companies to deploy innovative zero emission technologies, such as the more advanced small modular nuclear reactors. Free up these companies to deploy their innovations if you really care about climate change.
Unleashing American energy and innovation is the best way forward – whether you care about climate change or not. The other option is to take America backward, not only by rejoining the Paris Agreement, but also by enacting President-elect Biden’s expensive energy plan.
As Amb. Nikki Haley has pointed out, “Biden’s $2 trillion plan would raise electricity prices on families” and “dole out untold billions of dollars in corporate welfare to politically-favored energy companies.” We can tackle this challenge without America shooting itself in the economic foot.
Instead of revisiting Paris, Biden should develop an innovation-led approach that can be replicated easily by other countries, rather than a heavy-handed regulatory one. Lower taxes, regulatory streamlining, and strong economic growth are the sort of climate policies that surely the rest of the world can agree to.
Drew Bond is the co-founder and President of the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions.
Tim Chapman is the Executive Director of Nikki Haley’s organization Stand for America.
Both are alums of the Heritage Foundation.