The Paris Climate Accord signed in 2016 is mostly a symbolic agreement between participating nations to work towards the reduction of greenhouse gases that many scientists believe promote global warming and volatile climate fluctuations.
This week, President Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. Keeping in mind that in the Paris Agreement, each country determines its own contribution it should make, there is no mechanism to force any member nation to set a specific target by a specific date. There are no penalties imposed for failing to meet the self-established targets. And there is no single governing body that will work to establish global standards or promote advanced technologies to reduce carbon.
While there is much disagreement as to the root cause of Global Warming, it is more than clear that human activities like deforestation, coal-fired power generation and industrial pollution (water and air) are increasing carbon in the atmosphere.
After President Trump announced that his administration was retiring the U.S. from the Paris agreement, many CEOs, corporations and local governments reaffirmed their commitment to continue to support and invest in technologies and policies that promote the reduction of their carbon footprint.
So if there is no legal consequence or economic penalty when a member nation fails to reach their self-imposed carbon reduction targets, what is the true value of the Paris Accord, other than perhaps to be used as a vehicle for political or symbolic posturing? Conversely, why did the U.S. President withdraw from an agreement that actually has no requirement that member states actually execute it?
Have we forgotten that France gets over 70% of its energy from nuclear power generation? What does it mean when their new President Macron alludes to President Trump’s own tag line and lectures, “Make the Earth Green Again” and, “Make Our Planet Great Again?”
In my personal opinion, withdrawing U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Accord was a senseless political move.
This decision only serves to appease certain constituents in coal-producing regions, leading them to believe that the U.S. will go back to coal-fired power generation; thereby creating new employment opportunities for coal miners.
In fact, the economics from inexpensive natural gas and more efficient energy production alternatives are driving Electric Utilities to close down inefficient and dirty coal-fired plants at an accelerated rate. In the U.S., recent estimates indicate that an additional 40 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity will retire by 2020 (in addition to the nearly 20 GW that have retired as of 2014). This trend will not be reversed because President Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord.
As Sir Winston Churchill once wrote, “In politics, when you are in doubt what to do, do nothing …”