The White House intent to withdraw from the Paris Accord relies heavily on a 2015 report by NERA Economic Consulting. It’s important to note that this report was sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity – in other words, by the coal industry. Seeing red flags yet?
Here are a few facts that give the lie to the White House’s claims that the Paris Agreement is bad for the US:
JOBS AND THE ECONOMY: Paris increases US competitiveness, creates jobs, saves Americans money
- The NERA study cited by the President wrongly assumes that innovation in cleantech will slow down, instead of speeding up, and that it will kill jobs and be a negative economic loss. This is disproved by the fact that businesses are uniformly supportive of the Paris Agreement. (One debunking by WRI, another by economist Gary Yohe, and similar arguments rebutted by a variety of scientists)
- The market for clean energy is open and growing: since 2007, the U.S. economy grew by 12 percent while overall energy consumption fell by 3.6 percent. The rapid growth of clean energy and energy efficiency made 2014 the first year ever that the world’s economy grew without carbon emissions also growing, according to the International Energy Agency. The trend continued into 2015.
- Solar jobs are growing 17 times faster than the overall U.S. economy. Wind turbine service technicians are the fastest-growing occupation in the country, There are 1.2 million clean energy jobs in states that voted for Trump and over 2.6 million across the US.
- Wind power is now the largest renewable energy source in the U.S., according to the American Wind Energy Association. Installed wind capacity totaled over 82 gigawatts last year, enough to power 24 million average homes and surpassing America’s 80 gigawatts of hydropower.
- Leaving Paris positions China, not the US, as the leader in the global clean energy market: According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, China was the top solar PV employer, with 1.7 million jobs in 2015, “due to its undisputed lead in both manufacturing and installations.”
- According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “NERA … ignores recent studies that show real world investments in energy efficiency programs generate net savings for consumers; efficiency shows up in their study as a net cost.” (emphasis in original) In fact, the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to be the U.S. tool to implement the Paris agreement, would save the average American household $1,868 on electricity bills over a 15 year period.
COMMITMENTS FROM OTHER NATIONS: Paris extracted meaningful commitments from all the major polluters
- Contrary to White House claims, India and China are already working towards reducing emissions. China is announcing a new effort to work with the EU, and India’s solar industry is booming as it raises taxes on coal.
- Paris also created a system to monitor and verify that China and India do their fair share.
CLIMATE PROTECTION: The deal is a great start that reduces the risk climate change poses to the US.
- The White House cites NERA for the proposition that US participation in the Paris Agreement won’t do anything to stop global warming. But the NERA study assumes we’ll take the LEAST efficient path to decarbonization. There is no evidence for this.
- Reducing emissions in the energy and transport sectors could prevent almost 300,000 early deaths caused by air pollution each year in the US by 2030, according to a Duke University study.
- Reducing emissions reduces the risk of extreme weather events that cost Americans dearly in terms of human life as well as tens of billions of dollars in economic losses.
Beyond the NERA report, the White House asserted that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would be good for “America First.” That, too, is a badly flawed conclusion.
AMERICAN DIPLOMATIC LEADERSHIP: The Paris Accord was led by the United States. Walking away from an agreement we forged will create incalculable damage to this country’s reputation and credibility.
- Since WWII, the US has been the most significant global superpower. For better or worse, important global and even regional problems have involved US participation. Initiatives from the sanctions imposed by the West on Iran which led to the Iran nuclear deal to intellectual property protection to stopping human trafficking cannot be complete without US leadership.
- For the US to lead and push for the Paris agreement and then to walk away from it is a huge blow to the US’s reputation and credibility and its enormous soft power. As George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, argued in his plea “The Business Case for the Paris Accord”: “If America backs away now, decades of diplomatic progress could be jeopardized. Global statecraft relies on trust, reputation and credibility, which can be all too easily squandered. The United States is far better off maintaining a seat at the head of the table rather than standing outside. If America fails to honor a global agreement that it helped forge, the repercussions will undercut our diplomatic priorities across the globe, not to mention the country’s global standing and the market access of our firms.”
- Superpower leadership is no more permanent than the Antarctic ice shield: Oceans rise, empires fall. Until the US took the mantle, Britannia ruled the waves. China has made it clear it will fill a leadership vacuum as well as the commercial opportunity left by the United States.