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22 things Donald Trump got wrong about the Paris Agreement

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Yesterday, Donald Trump announced that the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement. His statement is riddled with mistakes, misleading statements, and utter nonsense.

So here’s a bit of fact-checking:

The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

In French it’s called the Accord de Paris. In English it’s the Paris Agreement

But begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can that’s great. And if we can’t that’s fine.

The UNFCCC Secretariat has put out a response to Trump’s statement. The UNFCCC Secretariat says that it “stands ready to engage in dialogue with the United States government regarding the implications of this announcement”. But the Secretariat adds, “The Paris Agreement remains a historic treaty signed by 194 and ratified by 147 countries. Therefore it cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party.”

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 the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. Each country sets its own emissions reduction targets. If the US had stayed in the Paris Agreement, but failed to meet the targets set in its Nationally Determined Contribution, nothing would happen. The US (or any other country) could change the targets (either up or down).

A January 2017 report from the US Department of Energy found that in the electric power generation industry in the US, solar energy employs more people than traditional coal, gas and oil combined. And the number of jobs is increasing. In 2016, the number of people working in the solar energy sector increased by 25%. The wind energy workforce increased by 32%.

So Trump’s argument about losing jobs because of the changes needed to address climate change just doesn’t make sense.

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.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. There are no financial burdens imposed on the US in the Paris Agreement.

Trump’s stand is selfish and immoral. The US is historically the world’s biggest polluter. It has more responsibility for climate change than any other country. The impacts of climate change will fall largely in countries that have contributed far less to climate change. The US also has the largest economy in the world.

The Green Climate Fund is not costing the US a vast fortune. President Obama promised US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. When Trump took office in January 2017, US$1 billion had been transferred to the Fund.

Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States, could cost America 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.
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According to the same study, by 2040, compliance with the commitments put into place by the previous administration, would cut production for the following sectors: paper, down 12%; cement, down 23%; iron and steel, down 38%; coal, and I happen to love the coal miners, down 86%; natural gas, down 31%.

The cost to the economy at this time would be close to US$3 trillion in lost GDP, and six-and-a-half million industrial jobs.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. It does not place any energy restrictions on the US, onerous or otherwise. The US Nationally Determined Contribution was written in the US under the Obama administration.

Trump refers to a report by the National Economic Research Associates, a consulting firm that has worked with coal industry front groups in the past. The study that Trump refers to was produced in March 2017 for the American Council for Capital Formation, a Washington DC-based think tank. Donors to the American Council for Capital Formation include Exxon-Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch Foundation.

On 29 May 2017, Senator Ted Cruz wrote an Op-Ed for CNN that also referred to the National Economic Research Associates report as part of his argument about why the US should leave the Paris Agreement.

Two days later, four scientists reviewed the claims in Cruz’s article on Climate Feedback. They find that while Cruz reflects what is written in the National Economic Research Associates report, the claims made in the report simply do not stand up.

For example, Valentina Bosetti, Associate Professor at the Economic Department of Bocconi University, points out that, “The claim on jobs lost is totally unsubstantiated by any scientific assessment. Depending on HOW we decide to decarbonize, the effect on jobs could be either positive or negative.”

And Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director, London School of Economics and Political Science, notes that, “The authors of the study admit on pages 10-11 to making the astonishing assumption that every other country in the world ignores the targets in their nationally determined contributions and make no further efforts to reduce emissions, so that much of the calculated costs to the United States economy subsequently arise from high-carbon companies relocate or lose business to competitors in other countries.”

Under the Agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years. Thirteen. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us.

Under the Paris Agreement every signatory country produces its own Nationally Determined Contribution. True, under its national proposal, China’s emissions would peak in 2030. But the US has more than one hundred years of pollution behind its huge economy. China does not. China has a population of 1.38 billion, more than four times the US population of 326 million.

Climate Action Tracker notes that “China’s coal consumption has declined in three consecutive years (2013 to 2016), and the outlook is for a continued slow decline.”

India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.

True, in its Nationally Determined Contribution India estimates that “at least US$2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030”. And India’s emissions reduction targets are “tied to the availability and level of international financing and technology transfer since India still faces complex developmental challenges”.

But India does not have one hundred years of industrial pollution. The country’s population is 1.34 billion. Per capita emissions are way less than in the US.

And as India’s Nationally Determined Contribution points out, “India’s climate actions have so far been largely financed from domestic resources.”

India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours.

Climate Action Tracker points out that “India has stated that planned coal-fired power plants may not be needed and with announced policies — if fully implemented — it would see a significant slowing down in the growth of CO2 emissions over the next decade.”

China and India both look set to achieve more emissions reductions than pledged under the Paris Agreement.

Trump is arguing that China and India need to do more. But so does every country on the planet if we are to stand a chance of avoiding runaway climate change. Particularly the US.

In short the Agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs. It just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States and ships them to foreign countries. This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.

Trump should listen to his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn. A week ago, Cohn told journalists that coal “doesn’t really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock.” The price of solar and wind energy has fallen so far that they are a cheaper (and cleaner) source of electricity than burning coal.

The coal sector has been losing jobs for decades. In the 1970s, 250,000 people worked in coal mining. By 2008, that figure had halved, and in 2015 it had fallen to 98,505.

Last year, China became the world’s top generator of solar power. In January 2017, the Chinese government announced that it would pour US$361 billion into renewable energy over the next three years, creating millions of jobs.

At 1% growth renewable sources of energy can meet some of our domestic demand. But at 3 or 4% growth, which I expect, we need all forms of available American energy. Or our country will be at great risk of brownouts and blackouts. Our businesses will come to a halt in many cases.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. If the Paris Agreement forced the US to close down power stations overnight, then blackouts could happen. Under the Paris Agreement, the US decided for itself what its emissions targets would be. And the US could decide how it wants to meet those emissions targets. And if the US failed to meet the targets, nothing would happen.

Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree, think of that, this much, Celsius reduction in global temperature, by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount.

A White House briefing released by Politico attributes this statement to researchers at MIT. Today, MIT put out a response to Trump’s statement, explaining that, “that’s not actually what the relevant research found, or what the scientists in question concluded”.

The MIT statement quotes Erwan Monier, one of the scientists who carried out the MIT research, as saying that, “It appears that the White House cherry picked the lowest number they could find among studies that explored the impact of the climate accord.”

The study did find that the commitments under the Paris Agreement are inadequate to address climate change. Here’s Monier in 2016 speaking about his research: “The Paris agreement is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. It puts us on the right path to keep warming under 3°C, but even under the same level of commitment of the Paris agreement after 2030, our study indicates a 95 percent probability that the world will warm by more than 2°C by 2100.”

Meanwhile Climate Interactive put out a response to Trump pointing out that under business as usual the global temperature would rise by 4.2°C by 2100. If all countries implemented their national proposals under the Paris Agreement the temperature would rise by 3.3°C by 2100. That’s a difference of 0.9°C.

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. We’ll have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, we will be environmentally friendly, but we’re not going to put our businesses out of work.

While he was campaigning, Trump promised to scrap the Environmental Protection Agency. Myron Ebell who was in charge of Trump’s EPA transition team, has said that two-thirds of the 15,000 people working at the EPA could lose their jobs. Scott Pruitt, who now leads the EPA, has sued the Agency 13 times. He’s a climate change denier, who has taken thousands of dollars from the oil industry.

Trump’s March 2017 budget cut funds for the EPA by 31%.

At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?

I honestly don’t know. But Donald Trump is certainly becoming a laughing stock.

I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.

The Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, tweeted a response to this: “As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.”

Beyond the severe energy restrictions inflicted by the Paris Accord, it includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund. Nice name. Which calls for developed countries to send US$100 billion to developing countries, all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign aid payments.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. There are no energy restrictions under the Paris Agreement. Nationally Determined Contributions are determined nationally.

The Green Climate Fund does not call for developed countries to send US$100 billion to developing countries.

The US$100 billion figure comes from the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. Paragraph 8 of the Copenhagen Accord states that, “developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries”. Some of that money can flow through the Green Climate Fund, which was founded in 2010 at the UN climate negotiation in Cancun.

Currently, US$10.3 billion has been announced for the Green Climate Fund.

The Green Fund would likely obligate the United States to commit potentially tens of billions of dollars of which the United States has already handed over US$1 billion. Nobody else is even close. Most of them haven’t even paid anything.

There are no obligations to commit “potentially billions of dollars”, other than the moral obligation that the US has as the world’s biggest economy and historically its biggest polluter. Contributions to the Green Climate Fund are voluntary.

The US is one of 43 countries that have promised to fund the Green Climate Fund, including nine from the Global South. But it’s way off being the biggest contributor per capita. That’s Sweden.

Including funds raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism. That’s where they came. Believe me, they didn’t come from me. They came just before I came into office. Not good. And not good the way they took the money.

As Kate Orenstein from Friends of the Earth US points out, “When a statement is so far from any basis in fact, it is hard to rebut.” Actually, it’s easy to rebut, and Orenstein does exactly that.

The money came from US tax payer, 71% of whom support staying in the Paris Agreement (according to a November 2016 survey).

Orenstein adds, “U.S. contributions have come from a line item under the Department of Treasury and discretionary funds from the Economic Support Fund.”

In 2015, the United Nations’ departing top climate officials reportedly described the US$100 billion per year as peanuts, and stated that the US$100 billion is the tail that wags the dog.

The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, did say something like this. But she said it at a conference in London in 2013 – two years before the Paris Agreement, and three years before she left her job at the UNFCCC. “$100 billion is the tail that is going to wag the dog. The financing needed is $1 trillion a year – that is what needs to be mobilised,” she said. Reuters reported her as saying that “most of the money needed to combat climate change would have to come from the private sector”.

In 2015, the Green Climate Fund’s Executive Director reportedly stated that estimated funding needed would increase to US$450 billion per year after 2020, and nobody even knows where the money’s going to. Nobody’s been able to say, where is it going to?

In June 2015, Hela Cheikhrouhou, then-executive director of the Green Climate Fund, spoke to Reuters about funding for the Green Climate Fund. Pledges then stood at US$10.2 billion. Cheikhrouhou said this was only a fraction of the money needed.

The article ends with this sentence – not attributed to Cheikhrouhou: “Estimates of total investment needs were about $450 billion a year from 2020, split between $350 billion to curb greenhouse gas emissions and $100 billion to adapt to changes such as more frequent downpours and heat waves.”

The Green Climate Fund website includes a list of 43 projects.

Of course, the world’s top polluters have no affirmative obligations under the Green Fund. Which we terminated.

There are no “affirmative obligations” for the world’s top polluters under the Green Climate Fund because it is a financial mechanism under the UNFCCC which supports actions in the Global South that are supposed to help address climate change. Trump has not “terminated” the Green Climate Fund.

Staying in the agreement could also pose serious obstacles for the United States as we begin the process of unlocking the restrictions on America’s abundant energy reserves. Which we have started. Very strongly.

It would once have been unthinkable that an international agreement could prevent the United States from conducting its own domestic economic affairs. But this is the new reality we face if we do not leave the Agreement, or if we do not negotiate a far better deal.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. It does not “post serious obstacles” to anything.

And exiting the Agreement protects the United States from future intrusions on the United States’ sovereignty. And massive future legal liability. Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary and non-binding. So no legal liability, massive or otherwise. Now or in the future.
 

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  1. It seems several other people had the same idea:

    Oliver Milman, The Guardian: Fact check: Trump’s Paris climate speech claims analyzed

    Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post: Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change deal

    Mark Landler, Brad Plumer and Linda Qiu, The New York Times: Trump, Prioritizing Economy Over Climate, Cites Disputed Premises

    Jon Greenberg, Politifact: Fact-checking Donald Trump’s statement withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement

    Michael Biesecker and Paul Wiseman, Associated Press: AP FACT CHECK: Holes in Trump’s reasoning on climate pullout

  2. The more morally and environmentally responsible voices like yours are heard, Chris, the more “selfish and immoral” ones are shown up as the shameless cowardice that they really are. Thank you for your evcellent posts.

  3. This is the best response to Trump’s statement that I’ve seen so far:

    David Roberts, Vox: The 5 biggest deceptions in Trump’s Paris climate speech

    Here’s a highlight – but the whole article is worth reading:

    1) No, an agreement cannot be both nonbinding and draconian (Spoiler: Paris is the former)

    Early on in the speech, Trump said: “Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

    This made me laugh out loud when I first heard it. I still get a kick out of it.

    The Paris climate agreement, as I have explained at tedious length (see here and here), is voluntary. Participating countries determine their own targets and their own policies. They can, at any time, revise those targets and policies. They can fail to meet the targets, without penalty. When Trump says “nonbinding” … that’s what nonbinding means. There are no legal bonds.

  4. Andrew Revkin makes a good point in his article about the Trump withdrawal from Paris:

    And Europe, while generally basking in the glow of the Paris Agreement, has been quietly lobbying the Trump administration since February to fast-track approvals of multi-billion-dollar terminals for exporting America’s abundant shale-drilled natural gas as liquefied natural gas, or LNG, across the Atlantic. Who’s the fossil fuel villain there?

  5. I would have like to see you mention that thew US, under the UNFCCC has an obligation to finance the costs of adaptation to climate change by, in particular, small developing states across Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean, given the US’ ( among others) historical responsibility climate change. Therefore, in this context, the US by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is still bound by the Convention to finance adaptation costs of small and developing states.