Au Revoir, Paris Accord

By Elizabeth Wright

WasteWatcher, June 2017

On June 1, 2017 President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Treaty, often called the Paris Agreement or Accord.  Based on the caterwauling and wringing of hands by environmentalists, the media, state and local officials, and foreign leaders, you would have thought that floods would be ensuing within days due to the polar ice caps melting overnight and the end of the world was nigh.

If the President had done otherwise, it would have enshrined the notion that any future president could violate the Constitution by agreeing to a treaty without the advice and consent of the Senate, and the nation would have been constantly badgered to meet increasingly stricter emission reduction standards every five years that would have greatly harmed the economy, while other countries, such as China, could continue to increase its emissions for years into the future.  If the U.S. remained in the treaty, it would have caused the loss of 6.5 million industrial sector jobs by 2040 and cost the economy nearly $3 trillion over the next few decades.

The agreement was designed to modify the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Treaty, and according to the accord, “brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.”  President Trump understood that the agreement had little to do with the environment but had a lot to do with transferring wealth from the United States, and other affluent industrialized countries, to developing countries, primarily through the Green Climate Fund, a financing agency run by UN bureaucrats.  Only developed countries, such as the U.S., are providing the funding, which added together would reach $100 billion by 2020.  In fact, President Obama committed $3 billion to the fund without Congressional approval.  Because Congress did not explicitly prevent him from using State Department funds, he used money from the agency’s budget to send a total of $1 billion to the climate fund, of which $500 million was delivered just four days before he left office.  American taxpayers who are already facing the consequences of a $20 trillion debt should not be subsidizing foreign countries’ energy programs.

Whether the Paris Accord was a treaty or simply a non-binding agreement has been a major sticking point prior to and since it was adopted by the UNFCCC on December 12, 2015 in Paris.  Many senators correctly argued that the U.S. had no legal obligation to meeting emissions targets or any financial commitments unless the Paris agreement was submitted to the Senate and approved.  A November 12, 2015, New York Times article stated that Secretary of State John Kerry argued that the agreement was not binding and that it was “definitely not going to be a treaty.”  This remark raised the ire of French President François Holland, who stated, “if the agreement is not legally binding, there is no agreement.”  French Foreign Minister Laurant Fabius echoed Holland’s concerns and stated that, “There are going to be discussions between jurists on the shape of the agreement, that is not a surprise, but the discussions in Paris must produce tangible results, and that is not debatable.”

The New York Times article went on to reveal that a State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, attempted to clarify Kerry’s position by stating, “The U.S. is pressing for an agreement that contains both legally binding and non-legally binding provisions.”  One analysis of Kerry’s words would be that declaring the agreement non-binding would give the President the cover to argue it was unnecessary to submit it as a treaty to the Senate, knowing it would never be ratified if he did.

President Obama signed the Paris Agreement on August 29, 2016.  This action continued his executive overreach and was one of numerous illegal executive actions President Obama took with his “pen and phone.”

The treaty forced unrealistic and drastic goals for reducing U.S. CO2 emissions, which would have harmed our economy and ability to grow.  Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C. and a known leader in questioning global warming alarmism, discussed in their May 2017 report, “Legal and Economic Case Against the Paris Climate Treaty,” the consequences of remaining in the Paris Treaty.  Lewis wrote, “Failure to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty would entrench a constitutionally damaging precedent, set President Trump’s domestic and foreign policies in conflict, and ensure many years of diplomatic blowback, imperiling America’s capacity for self-government.  The agreement makes our country beholden to the demands of foreign leaders, U.N. bureaucrats, and international pressure groups, disallowing American consumers from determining our own energy needs and wants – including at what price.”

Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, noted academic, and author of the book The Skeptical Environmentalist, hit the Paris Treaty hard in a November 16, 2015 Wall Street Journal article.  He said, “the agreements coming out of Paris are likely to see countries that have flourished with capitalism willingly compromising their future prosperity in the name of climate change.  But before ditching that economic model, it’s worth considering how much progress it has brought,” like doubling life expectancy in the past 150 years and raising billions of people out of poverty.  Lomborg wrote, “One and a half centuries ago, more than 75% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, consuming less than $1 a day, in 1985 money.  This year the World Bank expects extreme poverty to fall below 10% for the first time in history.”

He slammed “green” energy policies in many countries, including the U.S. and the E.U, which “have poured money into phenomenally inefficient subsidies for solar and biofuels, which politicians go for like catnip” and noted that even if every country lives up to their promises, they “will fail to accomplish anything substantial to rein in climate change.  At best, the emissions cuts pledged in Paris will prevent a total temperature rise by 2100 of only 0.306 degrees Fahrenheit” according to a peer-reviewed February, 2016, study Lomborg published in Global Policy.

On May 8, 2017, CAGW, along with 43 other free market groups, sent a letter to the President, laying out our reasons why the U.S. should withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty.  All of the signatories are pleased he listened to that advice, followed through on a major campaign promise to pull out of the treaty, understands its proposed policies would have hurt the U.S. economy well into the future, and knows it will be useless in relation to any change in temperature.

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