Donald Trump took a parting shot at the Paris climate accord, telling G20 leaders in a virtual summit, “To protect American workers, I withdrew the United States from the unfair and one-sided Paris climate accord, a very unfair act for the United States.” He went on to brag about our country’s emissions reductions during his presidency—an achievement he had nothing to do with.
Trump’s years-long complaints about the Paris accord somehow singling out the United States for unfair treatment are also nonsense. The president’s observation that China has built new coal-fired power plants is true, but it’s also true that China is expanding its renewable energy infrastructure much faster than the United States and China’s total consumption peaked in 2014. China is on track to achieve its 2030 emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement. But rather than coasting to its initial goals, President Xi Jinping is further tightening his country’s targets in an obvious challenge to the United States, which has decided to throw in the towel under Trump. China is now looking to hit carbon neutrality before 2060, a goal that President Trump has not committed to at any date.
Trump and his subordinates are quick to point out that U.S. emissions have dropped significantly since 2017—but this is in spite of Trump’s efforts, not because of them. Most of our reductions are a result of switching from coal to either natural gas or renewables, a trend that Trump has fought every step of the way. Trump claims (falsely and absurdly) that wind power causes cancer. He complains regularly that solar is expensive when, in fact, it has become cheaper than coal. Above all, Trump has spent his entire presidency trying desperately to revive coal, the most climate-polluting energy source.
It is, therefore, exceedingly rich for Trump to tout U.S. emissions reductions, which have occurred only because President Coal has failed to deliver on one of his signature campaign promises.
The good news is that the United States will be rejoining the Paris agreement and the global fight against the climate crisis in a matter of months.