The Non-Alternative Facts about the Paris Climate Agreement

Surprising no one, Trump’s speech announcing his intent to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement was riddled with lies and misinformation. Numerous fact-checks were published soon after Trump’s speech explaining the various inaccuracies. (See NYT fact-check and WaPo fact-check). The Trump Administration’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement – built on a pile of inaccurate information and hyperbole -- has been met with an astounding show of resistance. Millions of American citizens, companies, city and state leaders have stepped up to show the world that America still honors our climate commitments and understand that climate action is in America’s interest. Here is a comprehensive list of Trump's most egregiously dishonest and inaccurate statements on the Paris Agreement from his speech (and Pruitt's) -- compared with accurate information about the Paris Agreement.

Paris is a good deal for the US economy

Americans benefit from implementation of the Paris Agreement because it reduces the risks of having costly climate disasters and boosts clean energy jobs and economic growth.

TRUMP CLAIM: 

"The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers -- who I love -- and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production."

America is already being hit hard by the effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement engages the rest of the world in the struggle to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate. Doing nothing about climate change will be far more costly to the United States than making investments in climate action now: “the economic risks from unmitigated climate change to American businesses and long-term investors are large and unacceptable” (Risky Business Report). Banking giant Citibank also issued a report pointing to climate action as the responsible financial decision: “By comparing the cost of mitigation to the avoided ‘liabilities’ of climate change, we can derive a simple ‘return on investment’. On a risk adjusted basis this implies a return of 1-4% at the low point in 2021, rising to between 3% and 10% by 2035.”

Pulling away from Paris could dampen investments in America. Clean energy jobs are the fastest growing in the energy sector, employing 3 million Americans and potentially many more if we stick to Paris Agreement’s goals for low-carbon growth. (See the clean energy jobs fact sheet) Any emissions abatement costs are far outweighed by the costs on American business and on communities of doing nothing. Paris will be positive for the economy and job growth because it sets conditions for even more growth in clean energy and efficiency jobs across the country and in export markets worldwide. China employed 3.6 million people in renewable energy jobs last year, over four times the US total-- we should be competing to do more on climate change, not less.

Paris was negotiated with the best interests of America front and center.

 

TRUMP CLAIM:

"The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement -- they went wild; they were so happy -- for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage."

The previous administration won many concessions from the world to make sure this Agreement served US interests that were shared by Democrats and Republicans--(1) that the U.S. would set its own targets and plans to meet the targets -- thereby maintaining “sovereignty” over United States emissions reduction policy, and (2) that all countries would need to take responsibility for their emissions and that the agreement would discourage free-riders. The Obama Administration worked tirelessly to ensure that China and India would be held to the same standards for transparency in reporting on their emissions – another thing that was won in the Paris Agreement. Stepping away from the Paris Agreement means not holding other countries accountable to their targets. (But then again, that would only bother Trump if the administration actually cared about reducing emissions -- something their executive orders on energy clearly show they don’t care about.)

China, India and the rest of the world are already taking climate action

The Paris Agreement helps limit emissions growth in China and India.

TRUMP CLAIM:

"China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants.  So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.  India can double their coal production.  We’re supposed to get rid of ours."

The Paris Agreement helps limit emissions growth in China and India because it required them to submit their national climate targets. Both countries have indicated they are going to reduce the emissions intensity of their future growth. it’s been widely recognized by analysts that both countries are doing far more of the “fair share” than the United States.

China already has the most solar and wind capacity in the world. having installed more than two times as many solar panels and three times as much wind power as the US last year. It cancelled plans for over 100 coal plants in January. China has peaked and now reduced their coal consumption the last three years and set mandatory targets to continue to reduce their coal consumption and increase the share of renewables. China is going to start a national carbon trading program later this year covering the power sector, cement and aluminum. China has a 2030 goal of producing 20% of its energy from non-emitting sources. To meet this goal, they plan to nearly replicate the capacity of the entire US electricity grid with non-emitting sources.

India is increasing its share of non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 40 percent by 2030. India plans to add 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022. It also plans on 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.

Countries should take more ambitious action, especially the US

Emissions per capita in China, India and the EU are already far lower than those in the United States and will remain lower through 2030 and beyond. With China, India and the EU taking ambitious climate action, the United States is the real laggard.

TRUMP CLAIM: 

“Under the agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years -- 13.  They can do whatever they want for 13 years.  Not us.”

China is acting on climate change now, and has been for many years, despite Trump’s ignorance of that fact. (see info on China’s policies in previous section). We’re already seeing the fruits of China’s policies on climate change in reducing emissions. China’s emissions have been flat for the past few years, and there is strong evidence that its emissions could have already peaked. Even if emissions rise somewhat in the coming years, they will peak soon, potentially a decade ahead of its target, due to a move away from coal. Plus, China’s emissions per capita are still less than half that of Americans. Their cumulative national emissions is higher simply because China has four times the US population.

Comparing emissions should be done per capita. Remember that Americans currently emit eight times more per capita than the average Indian and over twice as much as the average person in China. The average income in both countries is still far lower than in the US and, rightfully anticipated to grow as they seek to raise incomes. There are over 200 million people in India without electricity in their homes. India plans to raise hundreds of millions out of poverty so that perhaps one day the average Indian income will be at least one-tenth of US income. Complaining about China and India growing emissions without accounting for population and current income is ignorant. Plus it is an attempt to ignore the fact that Paris is actually good for the US economy and that Trump’s policies are taking us in the wrong direction by raising emissions. 

American business supports the Paris Agreement

Trump’s ill-informed withdrawal from the Paris Agreement hurts American workers and competitiveness. He’s based his decision on debunked information from far-right conservative groups.

TRUMP CLAIM:

“Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs…  The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs.”

The ugly truth is that Trump is being fed faulty statistics on the Paris Agreement. Trump cited statistics from a “study” funded by conservative groups which was debunked by NRDC and by the research group WRI months ago. The “study” was discredited by analysts who showed that any emissions abatement costs are far outweighed by the costs on American business and on communities of doing nothing. The scenario being analyzed by the conservative groups showed only the scenario with the most unrealistically expensive costs, ignored the role of energy efficiency, ignored gains in competitiveness, and ignored all costs to health and economic damages from climate change.

Our experts corrected the record:

President Trump made his reckless decision to exit the Paris Agreement without sitting for even a single briefing on climate science, and on the economic costs of unleashing the worst impacts of climate change.

Instead of relying on the best available climate science and economics, the Trump Administration and its allies fabricated their own, creating misinformation and falsehoods to support the Paris exit. In his official announcement, President Trump touted a deliberately misleading, industry-funded study in its statements regarding the costs of the Paris Agreement.

There is a reason why business leaders, including one-third of the members of the White House’s manufacturing council, urged Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement. US businesses would not have shown such overwhelming support for the Paris Agreement if it was not good for their bottom line. Hence there was a strong backlash from businesses to Trump’s decision to withdraw:

“It is extremely disappointing. Exiting international accords like the Paris Agreement will negatively impact trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment and relationships amongst the world community.” -Cargill CEO David MacLennan

“The Trump administration's announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world's ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.” - Over 1338 businesses and investors with $1.7 trillion in annual revenues, $2.5 trillion in assets under management, and 3.1 million American employees

American workers are best served by an Agreement that promotes even more jobs in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors, which are the fastest growing in US energy. That’s why so many businesses and unions have come forth supporting Paris.

See statements from:

Unions:

Businesses and Investors

The American economy benefits from innovation in clean energy

Businesses and investors have made it clear – investments in renewable energy and efficiency are best for our future, no matter what rhetoric Trump spews about subsidizing coal companies.

TRUMP CLAIM:  

“The current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America…... the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States, and ships them to foreign countries.”

As our analysis showed: “Record-low natural gas prices, plummeting renewable technology costs, modest electricity demand growth, and environmental standards have driven power companies all over the country to retire a large number of old, dirty and uneconomic coal plants. And despite the Administration’s claims, there is broad agreement that a coal resurgence is unlikely, as some of the largest utilities in the country have reaffirmed their commitment to move away from coal in coming years for long-term economic and environmental reasons.”

Coal jobs have been on the decline because of increased mechanization, competition from natural gas which is less expensive, flattened demand, and the explosive growth of renewable energy. Trump finds a lot of bogeyman to blame for everything, including in the case of coal.

What’s far more concerning is how little this president cares about crippling jobs growth in clean energy and efficiency through his decision on the Paris Agreement and energy executive orders. There are major opportunities in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric grid modernization that can replace the retiring coal fleet while delivering much-needed economic and environmental benefits. According to the latest E2 report, rolling back smart climate policies like the Clean Power Plan would derail opportunities to create 560,000 new jobs and $52 Billion in economic growth by 2030.

Trump wants to eliminate policies that have helped reduce US emissions

America’s success at reducing emissions over the last decade happened because of environmentally sound policies. Unfortunately, the White House is trying to roll back exactly these types of policies that reduced emissions. And analysts estimate Trump’s policies would raise the emissions forecast for the US significantly compared to under the previous administration.

SCOTT PRUITT:

“Before the Paris Accord was ever signed, America had reduced its CO2 footprint to levels from the early 1990s.  In fact, between the years 2000 and 2014, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by 18-plus percent.  And this was accomplished not through government mandate, but accomplished through innovation and technology of the American private sector.”

Emissions reductions were made thanks to innovations and the types of policies that this administration just decimated through its energy executive order and other EOs. Trump’s plans would stop the emissions reductions programs initiated prior to him taking office. This is a significant setback in terms of climate action. The following chart shows the higher levels of emissions predicted if Trump were to roll back existing policies that reduce emissions.

The US should honor commitments to the Green Climate Fund

The US has committed $3 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund and we should honor this commitment to limiting the worst impacts of climate change, making climate-smart investments, and helping the most vulnerable countries. Several countries contribute more on a per-capita basis.

TRUMP CLAIM:  

“The Green Fund would likely obligate the United States to commit potentially tens of billions of dollars of which the United States has already handed over $1 billion-- nobody else is even close; most of them haven’t even paid anything.”

The US committed to $3 billion, not “tens of billions of dollars”. The United States spends more on fossil fuel subsidies for large energy producers in the US than it has on the Green Climate Fund. Developed countries all agreed under the UNFCCC, not just Paris, that they have collective responsibilities to contribute more to climate action given the highly polluting industrialization pathway that countries are now asked to bypass. And frankly given the huge economic and health costs of using fossil fuels, investments in low carbon development are a lot better for our collective health.

On contributing to GCF in general -- the GCF commitment is less than a 0.00015 share of our national debt, and only 0.00559% of U.S. GDP. (Foreign aid for poverty-alleviation as a whole is 0.8% of the federal budget in general. All contributions to the GCF are voluntary.

Other countries contribute a large share to the Green Climate Fund

Per capita, the United States is not the largest contributor to the Green Climate Fund.

TRUMP CLAIM:

“So we’re going to be paying billions and billions and billions of dollars, and we’re already way ahead of anybody else.  Many of the other countries haven’t spent anything, and many of them will never pay one dime.”

The facts are that while the United States is the largest contributor in absolute dollars, on a per capita basis, the U.S. pledge ranks 11th among the 45 contributing countries, and as a fraction of gross domestic product, the United States ranks 32nd. Every country with an official pledge has made a contribution, and nearly all have already paid a larger share of their total pledge than the United States. The US contribution, which may be the only GCF pledge that will remain unfulfilled, and which makes us look like deadbeats, is actually smaller per capita than contributions from many other countries. Americans contribute less to global climate action per capita than many other countries including Sweden, Norway, UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, among others.

Public and private capital will be mobilized to support climate action

Hundreds of billions of dollars in public and private investment should be mobilized for smart climate investments through many institutions. Trump is mistakenly and wantonly claiming that this equates to a $100 billion “obligation” to the Green Climate Fund.

TRUMP CLAIM:

“Beyond the severe energy restrictions inflicted by the Paris Accord, it includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund -- nice name -- which calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign aid payments.”

The $100 billion figure cited is inaccurate. It was a commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009 about all global investments – including counting public and private investments. Only a portion of this will come from governments. Much of it will be generated by small public investments that catalyze far greater investments by the private sector. The $100 billion dollar goal was not tied to the GCF or a requirement of the GCF. Current GCF projects and the GCF investment framework are publicly available on the official website.

Investing in climate action also serves our national security interests

Climate action should not be treated as a less important means of keeping the peace – because it costs less in dollars and in human lives than military engagement.

TRUMP CLAIM:

“The Green Fund … including funds raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism.  That’s where they came.  Believe me, they didn’t come from me. -- including funds raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism.  That’s where they came.  Believe me, they didn’t come from me.”

U.S. contributions have come from the State Department’s Economic Support Fund which was authorized by Congress. It’s such a cheap political ploy to claim that supporting the most vulnerable nations in tackling climate should be pitted against counter-terrorism efforts. America can support both, but not when Trump is threatening to cut the budget for the State Department’s efforts on both fronts.

Even the Republican Party’s 2016 platform recognizes that foreign aid can help address security challenges: “It can sometimes serve as an alternative means of keeping the peace, far less costly both in dollars and in human lives than military engagement.”

The Paris Agreement is Ambitious

The Paris Agreement makes a large dent in projected global temperature rise. What we need is more ambitious action, not a president that fabricates excuses for inaction.

TRUMP CLAIM:

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree -- think of that; this much -- Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100.  Tiny, tiny amount.”

More accurate calculations by well-respected analysts indicate the reductions secured by the Paris Agreement represent 1.75 degrees of reductions from a baseline temperature rise of over 4 degrees: that's over a 70 percent reduction -- it is a significant share of the reduction needed to get to the 2 degree Paris goal when compared with emissions projections in a business-as-usual scenario. Instead, Trump’s advisors cherry-picked figures from one study, and even the author of the study Trump cited disputes Trump’s interpretation.

“John Reilly, lead author of the report, said he “disagrees completely” with Trump’s characterization that the 0.2 degree cut is a “tiny, tiny” amount that is not worth pursuing. As a part of the deal, countries reexamine their commitments and can exceed or extend their pledges beyond 2030. The intent of the research was to say the Paris deal was a small step, and that more incremental steps need to be taken in the long run.” (The study assumed no new policies after 2030 but still projected temperature rise out to 2100.)

For a more accurate estimate of projections on temperature rise out to 2100, here is the set of projections of where warming would have been headed without the Paris Agreement and other smart climate policies. This shows a significant reduction from the baseline estimates, and also shows where ambitious NDCs have already been turned into current national policies – lowering projected temperature rise significantly.

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This post was co-written with Carley Reynolds

About the Authors

Han Chen

International Climate Advocate, International and Climate & Clean Air programs

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