Democrats Want to Rejoin the Paris Accord. Let’s Recall Why It Was Such a Bad Deal.

When the Obama administration negotiated the Paris climate agreement, conservatives argued that it should move through the proper treaty process and be sent to the Senate, where elected senators could weigh in and potentially reject the deal.

President
Barack Obama didn’t do that. Instead, he unilaterally signed the deal, making
it all the more easy for a future president to un-sign it.

Now
that President Donald Trump has announced his intent to withdraw from the
costly, ineffectual agreement, House Democrats think it’s time to involve
Congress.

Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced the Climate Action Now Act, a bill that would block the Trump administration from withdrawing from the Paris accord and enforce the commitments made under the Obama administration. Those commitments include reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26-28% compared to 2005 levels.

Trump was right to announce his intent to withdraw from Paris. While the climate is indeed changing and human activity is playing a role, the chances of looming climate catastrophe are simply unrealistic and not grounded in reality.

But even granting such a looming catastrophe, the Paris agreement itself would do little to alter the climate. To have any impact whatsoever on climate, the entire world would either have to quickly change the way it consumes energy or simply remain undeveloped. Both options are devoid of reality.

While many countries are rapidly
expanding their use of renewable power, forecasts indicate that coal, oil, and
natural gas will continue to provide the overwhelming majority of the world’s
energy needs well into the future. For developing countries, the highest
priorities are to reduce energy poverty and improve living standards.

Those
who are clamoring for action on climate change are the ones who should actually
be most upset with what a sham the Paris agreement is. It’s been celebrated as
a breakthrough achievement of the world’s developed and developing countries
coming together, but it is anything but that.

With
no enforcement mechanisms in place and no repercussions for failing to meet
emissions reduction targets, countries are essentially free to do whatever they
want, meaning they will continue on their business-as-usual trajectory without
making any changes. China, for instance, can peak its emissions in 2030 even
though projections have their peak emissions falling before that year.

India,
for its part, has pledged to reduce its emissions levels, or cuts its ratio of carbon emissions
to gross domestic product. That ratio may well go down so long as carbon emissions
rise at a slower rate than GDP, but carbon emissions will keep rising all
the same. 

Actually,
India committed to emissions reductions that are less than what the country
would achieve if they continued on the same track they are currently on today. In
other words, they set the bar so low that they can continue along their
businesses-as-usual trajectory of emissions intensity and come out looking like
a climate hero.

As
the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass wrote,
“It’s easy to slim down to 180 pounds, if you weigh 175 to begin with.”

Pakistan
was more honest than most about its emissions prospects, stating bluntly,
“Given the future economic growth and associated growth in the energy sector,
the peaking of emissions in Pakistan is expected to take place much beyond the
year 2030. An exponential increase of [greenhouse gas] emissions for many
decades is likely to occur before any decrease in emissions can be expected.”

Global compliance with the Paris Agreement has been nothing short of abysmal. In fact, most nations will soon fail to meet the deadlines they agreed to.

The original hope that each nation’s contribution might somehow push other countries to “do more” is not playing out. This deal was a hodgepodge of arbitrarily defined commitments with no enforcement mechanism. It was doomed from the start.

Following
through with the Obama administration’s commitments would impose clear economic
harm on the U.S. by driving energy prices higher—and that’s just a small part
of the overall cost. Americans would pay more for food, health care, education,
clothes, and every other good and service that requires energy.

These higher costs would be spread across the entire economy and would shrink overall economic growth and employment. Heritage Foundation analysts estimated that the regulations required to meet the Obama administration’s commitments would impose the following costs by 2035:

  • An
    overall loss of nearly 400,000 jobs, half of which would be in manufacturing;
  • A
    average total income loss of more than $20,000 for a family of four; and,
  • An
    aggregate GDP loss of over $2.5 trillion.

Other
countries would continue getting a free pass under the agreement, but if the
U.S. signed back on, one can be sure that environmental activist lawsuits would
make sure the U.S. kept its obligations. 

To make matters worse, the climate regulations encompassing the U.S. target may not even achieve the desired results and would require additional regulations. And that would just be the beginning. The Paris Agreement requires ever-increasing targets as time goes on, which would further increase the cost of compliance. These efforts would return us to the same costly and ineffective policies that the current administration is unwinding.

Congress
should instead advance pragmatic policies that will actually drive innovation
in energy and environmental protection.