Green Watch

U.S. Achieves Largest Decrease in Carbon Emissions…Without the Paris Climate Accord


As his final virtue-signaling performance as President, Barack Obama entered the United States into the Paris Climate Accord. The Obama administration celebrated the agreement, which curiously bypassed the traditional congressional ratification process, as a great political accomplishment. Since the accord’s bylaws prevent members from leaving until 2020, Obama officials swore it was “Trump-proof.”

Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the accord received widespread condemnation and provoked outrage among establishment Democrats, the international community, and climate alarmists everywhere. They decried the exit as reckless isolationism and an ignorant rejection of climate change science. According to the mainstream media’s portrayal, quitting the Paris Climate Accord would be earth-shattering as the U.S. joined the small club of countries that “reject the future.”

But last week, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) analyzed data and released a chart based on research by the 2018 BP Statistical Review of Global Energy and University of Michigan economist Mark Perry indicating that the United States achieved the largest decline in carbon emissions in the world for the 9th time this century. AEI reported that in 2017, U.S. carbon emissions decreased by more than 42 million tons. Despite departing from the Paris agreement, the U.S. significantly reduced its carbon footprint this year. This remarkable success can be attributed to substituting natural gas for coal. We’re upholding our end of the contract and we’re not even signees anymore!

Meanwhile, China, the Paris Protocol’s champion and the world’s most notorious polluter, produced the largest increase of carbon in the atmosphere in 2017. Coupled with India, China’s carbon contributions accounted for nearly half of the total surge in 2017 global carbon emissions.

Just because the U.S. is one of only a few nations not in the Paris agreement does not suddenly make it a good deal. The accord was not a binding treaty, but only a collection of pledges based on the honor system (agreed to by nations with inconsistent records). Since the agreement lacked an enforcement clause, it could not hold countries accountable or penalize them if they failed to meet their obligations. But most of the participating countries’ commitments were far from inspiring, anyway.

The Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass, an expert on energy policy, called the Paris Accord  something “between a farce and a fraud.” One hundred and ninety-seven nations gathered together to agree to combat climate change, but some participants were much more ambitious than others. Some countries agreed to do what they already planned to do, if not less.

Cass explained that China pledged to “reach peak emission by about 2030.” Well, the United States government had already completed a study to guess when Chinese emissions would peak; their guess was about 2030.

India did not pledge to lower their emissions at all, but merely pledged to “reduce the emissions intensity.”

Numerous countries promised to remain on their current emission trajectories. Bravo! Obama applauded their efforts and happily accepted their half-hearted pledges. But then he committed the U.S. to meet disproportionately large, economy-crippling targets. Obama’s pledge stipulated that the U.S. would reduce emissions by nearly a quarter. Using the National Energy Modeling System 2015, a computer model created by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Heritage Foundation projected that the Paris Accord would cost the U.S. nearly 400,000 jobs and the national economy $2.5 trillion by 2035.

Not to mention, Obama kindly donated $3 billion from the unlimited U.S. bank account over four years to the Green Climate Fund, which uses developed nations’ money to help developing countries reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. If the patterns of history hold, the money probably will not go to its intended purposes and will instead be funneled to the ruling elites of the impoverished nations. As the saying goes, “Foreign aid is taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries.” If the U.S. remained in the agreement, it’s likely future administrations would turn the Green Climate Fund into another U.S. foreign aid black hole.

Parting ways with an unnecessary, unfairly expensive international agreement did not end U.S. free-market innovation or investment in new energy technologies, which caused this year’s large decrease in carbon emissions depicted by the AEI graph. Leaving does not mean losing sight of the future.

Caroline Downey

Caroline Downey is a CRC research intern. She is studying economics and political science at Boston College.
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