Opinion

LORIS: House Democrats Are Set To Make An Ill-Advised Move To Stick By The Paris Agreement

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Nicolas Loris Heritage Foundation

On June 1, 2017, President Trump followed through on a campaign promise to withdraw the United States from in the Paris climate agreement. While the U.S. can’t officially initiate the withdrawal until this November, House Democrats are pushing a bill to keep the U.S. in the pact.

HR9, the Climate Action Now Act, would require Trump to develop a plan for making good on the Barack Obama’s pledge to dramatically cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Unfortunately, meeting the bill’s emissions targets would be ruinously unrealistic.

To put the U.S. on a pathway to meet those targets, the Obama administration imposed costly regulations on power plants, cars, trucks and oil and gas production. Even those measures would likely not have been enough to reach the stipulated 28 percent reduction. They would, however, have cost American households plenty.

A Heritage Foundation analysis found that the Obama-era regulations would spike electricity prices by between 13 and 20 percent. As higher prices costs rippled through the economy, the cumulative costs would be immense.

Over the next 16 years, the regulations would eliminate, on average, nearly 400,000 jobs annually. The typical family of would experience income losses totaling more than $20,000. The economy as a whole would suffer lost gross domestic product (GDP) totaling more than $2.5 trillion.

Why such dramatic effects? Because most of the economy runs on fossil fuels. In 2017, they generated nearly two-thirds (63.5 percent) of our electricity. That same year, petroleum accounted for 92 percent of our transportation fuel.

The Obama regulations were designed to drive energy prices higher so that families and businesses would use less energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While Americans would feel the pain directly through higher electric bills and higher prices at the pump, they would be hurt even more by rising prices for food, housing, clothing, health care — virtually everything that requires energy to make, transport and operate.

All of these sacrifices would be made to honor the Paris climate accord — and that accord is a total sham. It has no enforcement mechanism and no penalties for failing to meet emissions targets.

Moreover, it leaves developing countries essentially free to increase their emissions as much as they want. For instance, it lets China (the world’s largest emitter) and India (the 3rd largest) continue along their current, rising emissions trajectory, but to label their inaction as “progress.” The developing-nations loophole is immense, making the pacts global reduction targets — both near-term and long-term — virtually unattainable.

This is not to say that developing countries should be required to cut their emissions. Economic progress in these nations — the alleviation of what is often grinding poverty — depends on access to affordable, reliable power. Although carbon dioxide-free energy will likely play a larger role in meeting the world’s energy needs, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of energy will come from conventional energy sources.

Even developed countries are demonstrating that the climate accord is a sham.  A June 2018 report from Climate Action Network Europe found that “all EU countries are off target: they are failing to increase their climate action in line with the Paris Agreement goal. No single EU country is performing sufficiently in both ambition and progress in reducing carbon emissions.”

When Trump first announced his intent to withdraw from Paris, critics suggested that he was making the U.S. a pariah among the international community. The only other countries not participating in the Paris Protocol, they noted, were Syria and Nicaragua.

Well, now that Syria and Nicaragua have signed on, does that somehow make Paris a good agreement? Does the fact that North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe are all signatories somehow make it compelling to join?

By walking away from a fraud of a climate deal, the U.S. is not ceding leadership but demonstrating it.

The Paris Agreement committed the U.S. to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It would have hurt every sector of American business and every single American who depends on affordable, reliable energy.

It was a terrible deal across the board, and it likely will hurt those countries that remain in the agreement.

Unless members of Congress are intent on fleecing American families and businesses, there is no compelling reason to re-engage with Paris. The Climate Action Now Act would be a raw deal for energy consumers and taxpayers.

Nicolas Loris is The Heritage Foundation’s Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy and also deputy director of the think tank’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.