Thursday, June 1, 2017

The U.S. Pulls Out of the Paris Climate Accord: North-South Redistribution as Unfair

The Paris Climate Accord, President Trump announced on June 1, 2017, “is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” This goes well beyond the deal’s anticipated toll on the U.S. economy. The deal, the president, argued is fundamentally unfair. Indeed, the agreement may reflect more the old North-South differential in economic development than even the climate. In this regard, the president characterized the U.S. assent to the deal as a “self-inflicted wound” made out of weakness—perhaps even guilt foisted by the developing world.  “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” the president said. More to the point—the financial bottom-line, “The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”
Firstly, the agreement “punishes the United States,” while “imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.” In fact, China could increase carbon emissions for 13 years and build hundreds of new coal plants and double coal production by 2020; India could double its coal production by 2020. “We’re supposed to get rid of ours,” the president lamented.  Even the E.U. can continue to build more coal plants. “Not us.” Essentially, the agreement shifts coal jobs from the U.S. to other countries.
Secondly, the “draconian financial and economic burdens” on the U.S. exceed merely being “hamstrung” economically. Direct monetary retribution is, I submit, the hallmark of the deal’s unfair framework. The Green Climate Fund, a “scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States.” It “calls on developed countries to send $110 billion to developing countries—all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign-aid payments.” The U.S. had already handed over $1 billion, while most other developed countries had not paid anything. The Fund was already “costing the U.S. a vast fortune.” The U.S. would have had to pay tens of billions of dollars. In short, the Fund is “a redistribution of wealth from the U.S. to the developing world.” Were the Accord really about climate only, such massive redistribution would not have been a required part of the deal. India’s participation, for instance, was contingent on receiving billions of dollars from the developed countries in addition to regular foreign aid.
Therefore, the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Accord is not a pass for climate-change deniers; the pull-out was not so much about the climate—a position against the reality of climate change. Rather, the U.S. president’s objections had to do primarily with other agenda in the Accord: that of redistributing wealth from the North to the South. Accordingly, the president declared that the United States would “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.” A fair framework, in other words, is one that is “fair and where the burdens and responsibilities are equally shared by the many nations all around the world.” Ironically, by exiting the Accord, the United States was calling for a clean agreement—meaning one that is about the global climate rather than packing in other, subterranean agendas that effectively dilute the importance of addressing climate change as a matter warranting its own focus.
Interestingly, the next day witnessed the E.U. and China meeting without being able to agree on a joint-statement on climate change because of disagreements on other matters—letting trade disputes on whether China is to be recognized by the World Trade Organization as a market- or state-driven economy and whether China is “steel dumping” and restricting foreign investors get in the way; the implication is that climate-change was of less importance to the Chinese and European government officials.[1] Accordingly, perhaps those same E.U. officials were actually upset at the U.S. president because the U.S. would no longer be continuing to pay into the Green Fund redistribution, rather than out of concern that the U.S. administration was walking away from climate change. Ironically, the Europeans and Chinese could be said to be putting other matters before the climate, whereas the Americans were set to re-negotiate based on climate exclusively, without other agendas getting in the way.

1. Deutsche Welle, “EU, China Fail to Issue Joint Statement Due to Trade Status Concerns,”, June 2, 2017.