Trump Admin Scapegoats China & India to Satisfy Polluters

We’ve already written plenty about why the Paris Agreement is good for America and the world, but the Trump Administration continues to pretend that other countries are not acting on climate change. That is an outdated notion. The Paris Agreement is our first global deal with all countries stepping up to the plate—including China and India.

In this weekend’s interview, Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change a “bad deal.” He claimed China and India “got away scot-free.” Trump once suggested that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” So… are Trump and Scott Pruitt poorly informed about what other countries are doing, or just lying?

Trying to back the U.S. out of our commitment puts our communities and future generations at risk for worse climate impacts. Trump and Pruitt's claims about inaction in China and India are hollow excuses to roll back environmental protections for Americans. Back-tracking from the Paris Agreement and from the Clean Power Plan means ignoring the preferences of the majority of Americans to tackle the threats of climate change. That's why the Administration pretends that other nations are doing nothing, to justify giveaways to fossil fuel polluters. This damages the quality of the air that Americans breathe, the water we drink and the planet we inhabit. The dismantling of climate policies and finger-pointing at China and India is really about letting fossil fuel polluters get away "scot-free."

What are China and India really doing?

Pruitt panned the Paris Agreement because he falsely claimed that "…China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free." He argued that China and India “didn’t have to take steps until 2030. So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally”.

No one wants to let a “free rider” go unchallenged. But Pruitt and Trump are wrong if they think India and China are the free riders of the Paris Agreement. Here are a few examples of what China and India are doing between now and 2030 in line with their Paris Agreement commitments:

  • CHINA: Increasing the share of non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 20 percent by 2030. This means adding 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, equivalent to the generating capacity of the entire U.S. grid. China is already the world leader in new installations of wind and solar power.
  • CHINA: Peaking all carbon emissions no later than 2030. China recently established the first ever mandatory target for coal’s share of total energy consumption—to decrease it from 64 percent in 2015 to 58 percent by 2020. And China’s energy and cement-related CO2 emissions in 2016 were basically flat, continuing a leveling off of its CO2 emissions since 2014.
  • INDIA: Increasing share of non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 40 percent by 2030. India plans to add 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022.
  • INDIA: Reducing emissions intensity 33 to 35 percent by 2030 based on 2005 levels. India is an emerging economy where the average GDP per capita is one-ninth that of the average American. The economy is still developing, and one-third of rural households still lack access to electricity. Emissions may grow in India as the economy develops, but far less quickly than they might have without the Paris Agreement.

China and the United States formally join the Paris Agreement

(IPP Photo Archive)

Which countries are doing a “fair share”?

Perhaps Trump and Pruitt simply lack a fundamental understanding of the energy situation for other nations—so here is some helpful background on the four biggest emitters. China, the United States, India and the EU represent half the world population and accounted for 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2015. Let’s compare the emissions of these four places. The average emissions for every American is eight times that of the average Indian. Similarly, the emissions per person in China is only half that of the average American, and a bit more than residents of the EU. When we talk about who gets away “scot-free,” it’s totally disingenuous to suggest that other countries are not doing their part.

Overall, the average emissions per American are three times higher than the global average. An America that scraps the Clean Power Plan, opens up more coal leasing on federal lands, ignores fugitive methane emissions and the costs of unregulated carbon emissions—that would be the real “free rider” in our global fight against climate change. The rest of the world is acting, despite Mr. Pruitt’s claims to the contrary.

Climate policies must consider the economic realities and the current emissions per capita. Incomes in China and India still lag far behind those in Europe and the United States. But both countries are pursuing economic growth with strong limits on carbon emissions. This graph shows the higher emissions levels per capita for the US and EU relative to China and India. (Source: Climate Action Tracker)

Who gets the best deal? Polluters.

One of the Trump Administration’s justifications for rejecting climate action and policies like the Clean Power Plan is that it requires U.S. businesses to take climate action while other nations like China and India are doing nothing. That’s simply untrue.

Trump Watch: NRDC tracks the Trump administration’s assaults on the environment

Weakening our policies means we are the laggards in the race to a secure energy future. If we truly wanted to put America first, we’d be leading the global transition in clean energy. Pruitt claimed that the Paris deal and the Clean Power Plan would kill jobs, but the low-carbon economy championed by the Paris Agreement actually encourages countries to invest in some of the fastest-growing jobs in the energy sector. Clean energy jobs have grown so fast that their growth already outstrips jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

The Trump Administration is rejecting the advice of 1000 businesses, over 75 mayors and millions of Americans who are calling for strengthened policies on climate change. Instead, the Administration wants to decide America’s environment and energy future based primarily on consultations with the fossil fuel industry—namely the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, ConocoPhillips, and the coal company Peabody Energy. The claim that India and China are doing nothing is a lie. Even worse, it's a malevolent attempt to deflect attention from the fossil fuel companies who can benefit from rolling back climate action.


Additional information about the Paris Agreement and climate pledges made by China and India can be found here:

About the Authors

Han Chen

International Climate Advocate, International and Climate & Clean Air programs

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