Jun. 15, 2017


Inaccuracies in Trump’s Speech on the Paris Agreement

Trump claimed that pulling the country out of the Paris Agreement would protect American workers from devastating economic impacts. This claim is false and ignores the fact that each country sets its emission goals and there is no consequence for not achieving the goals. The agreement does not impose any legal penalty or liability on participants that fail to meet their target goals. His claims are not based on the facts.

The statistics Trump used in his speech came from a report on the economic impacts of greenhouse gas regulations prepared for the American Council for Capital Formation, a conservative think tank whose board includes representatives from industry trade groups. This study was paid for by two groups that have long opposed environmental regulation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation. Both get financial backing from those who profit from the continued burning of fossil fuels. The latter group has received money from foundations controlled by the Koch brothers, whose company owns refineries and more than 4,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines. The study makes worst-case assumptions that may inflate the cost of meeting U.S. targets under the Paris accord while largely ignoring the economic benefits to U.S. businesses from building and operating renewable energy projects. The report, prepared by NERA Economic Consulting, does not take into account potential benefits from emissions reductions or future technology that could influence costs over the long term. The source of this report and its inaccuracies indicate bias and influence by monied interests. Academic studies have found that increased environmental regulation doesn't actually have much impact on employment. Jobs lost at polluting companies tend to be offset by new jobs in green technology. Clean energy is a booming source of employment opportunity. Look at the example of California, which has strict environmental regulations and a booming economy. It is a working case in point that clean energy does not cause devastating economic effects.

Trump said that the U.S. “pays billions of dollars” for the Paris Agreement, but China, Russia and India have paid “nothing.” The U.S. has pledged $3 billion, but so far has paid $1 billion. The agreement requires developed countries, such as the U.S., to help developing countries, including China and India, with mitigating climate change. Even if the U.S. does provide $3 billion to this fund, it still wouldn’t have contributed the most on a per-capita basis. Sweden has already contributed $581 million, which is nearly $60 per person — the largest per-capita contribution of any country. And Luxembourg has pledged, but not fully contributed, nearly $94 per person, which would make it the largest. In fact, the U.S. ranked 11th in its pledged contribution per capita, after a number of European countries and Japan.

China, India, Russia and the U.S. all donated in the latest funding cycle for the Global Environment Facility. Out of a total of $4.43 billion for the 2014-2018 cycle, U.S. funds made up 14.7 percent, or just over $651 million; China contributed 0.54 percent, or almost $24 million; Russia gave 0.4 percent, or $17.7 million; and India provided 0.32 percent, or just over $14 million. The U.S. contributed the second most overall, topped by Japan, which contributed 16.34 percent, or almost $724 million.

It’s also important to mention that, per capita, the U.S. emitted more greenhouse gases than China and India combined in 2015- each person living in the United States contributed 16.07 tons to the country’s total on average, while each person living in China and India contributed 7.73 and 1.87 tons on average, respectively. However, China still emits the most in total tons because its population is almost 1.4 billion people, while nearly 325 million live in the United States. Russia, on the other hand, emitted 12.27 tons per person on average in 2015, or the 5th most in total tons, after China, the U.S., the European Union and India.

Basically, carbon in the US is being driven down by trends that are bringing economic development, jobs, and lower energy costs in their wake. Several states are still working towards lower emissions and sustainable energy. The United States may still meet our chosen target carbon goals. Trump would have us believe that slightly accelerating those trends would whiplash us around to economic catastrophe- this is just not true.