Saturday, June 3, 2017

Paris Is Burning...Again

“Just because a country signs a UNFCCC agreement does not mean the agreement has any legal effect in the country. The Clinton Administration signed the Kyoto Protocol in November 1998, more than six months after the agreement opened for signature. President Clinton never submitted it to U.S. Senate for ratification. In March 2001, President George W. Bush rejected Kyoto and the U.S. never became a party….”

“…Kyoto was legally binding and countries still failed to comply. Non-binding targets in the Paris Agreement will not produce any greater confidence that countries will comply.”

“…from the year Kyoto entered into force until the first commitment period ended in 2012, the U.S. was leading the top twenty economies in the world in reducing emissions without being a part of the Kyoto Protocol or embracing stringent EU style carbon policies.”

From the Senate Majority White Paper presented to the Committee on Environment and Public Works, April 16 2016

OK, so President Trump did what he said he would do and rejected the Paris Agreement. My sense is that the UNFCCC agreement is ill-conceived and not enforceable. That it would do little or no good; and to the extent that it might be followed would likely harm the very economies that are doing the most to support and feed the world. BUT, these days, any agreement that proposes to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases is, de facto, an agreement that must be supported. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or well thought out or enforceable. If its goal is to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, it is something one is expected to support.

All of these CEO’s who are coming out in support of “The Agreement” and condemning Trump for rejecting it, are doing the smart thing. People who support “The Agreement” are much more passionate about climate change than those who do NOT support “The Agreement”. If I am leading a global company or a company that relies heavily on an educated workforce under 40 years of age, it makes a lot of sense for me to support any high profile initiative that “is good for the planet”. It’s a winning position with most of my employees and customers.

And as for all of the other countries supporting The Agreement, they breakdown into three groups. The liberals (mostly Europeans) who know that they have no choice other than to support any climate change program; the poor nations who stand to lose nothing and perhaps gain a great deal if by some miracle The Agreement actually did what it’s designed to do; and, lastly, the big players like China and India who have no intention of making any changes unless someone else pays for it. In the meantime, they will exploit their competitive advantage and keep on pumping out more carbon emissions.

And the media is totally in the bag for any program that addresses climate change. Add in that most of them are anti-Trump, no matter what; and rejecting The Agreement, becomes just another blood in the water feeding frenzy for them.

I’ve written before that I do believe the climate is changing. And it may be changing in ways that will be catastrophic for some parts of the world. What remains unclear to me is how much of the change is man-made. Some of it, no question. And efforts to reduce carbon emissions are a good thing. I’m all for it. But crippling the economies of the most developed countries, transferring wealth to third world nations where corruption and mismanagement will piss most of it away and allowing our largest global competitors to pretty much conduct business as usual seems like a bad deal. And what if we really do reduce carbon emissions significantly and it turns out that it has less to do with climate change that we thought? Probably time to move to higher ground. In the meantime, we should continue to work toward reducing carbon emissions and developing alternative energy sources. But let’s not kid ourselves that something like the UNFCC agreement is going to be the game changer.

My advice to President Trump would have been to just go with the flow. Express your concerns, sign The Agreement and then just ignore it like everyone else will. Your core constituents might howl, but they will still support you. Your opponents would have been caught totally off-guard and forced to consider that perhaps you’re not just a crazy old man with a long red tie and an orange complexion. Remember this…taking care of Mother Earth, even if it's only a symbolic gesture, wins every time.

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