Paris covfefe

He’s done it. Donald Trump has taken the United States out of the Paris agreement.

Trump’s administration, perhaps predictably, employed the unfairness of Paris to pull out of the accord. But the question remains: is a fair Paris-like agreement possible? Or, even more fundamentally – should a Paris-like agreement be allowed at all?

Under Paris, if India or China built a coal power-plant, you wouldn’t hear ‘India adds power generation capacity, x million connected to the grid for the first time.’ Instead, the headlines would read: ‘India expected to fail meeting Paris target, expected to hit threshold for penalties soon.’

That would have been the real, disastrous legacy: an full-scale ethical inversion. Any positive would have been turned into a negative. That is the intended goal of the climate movement: an agreed-upon global constraint on energy use and a Malthusian corruption of the imperatives of modern life.

Dishearteningly, nearly everyone in the climate debate has fallen into the same rut. ‘Paris is a bad agreement because it won’t accomplish anything for the climate.’

Does this mean that a global arrangement that actually chokes off fossil fuel use enough to measurably impact climate would be a good one? Assuming the model calculations to be correct…?

For over two decades, developing countries hid securely behind the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ curtain. Post-Copenhagen, their own development was turned against them by the Obama administration under John Kerry and Todd Stern. With the toehold of not having to make any sacrifices in the present, India and China boldly auctioned off their economic independence at the altar of Paris. India would continue business-as-usual, gets loads of free money from the Green Climate Fund, and provide access to domestic ‘markets’ for solar power, ‘microgrids,’ and spread subsidy largesse around. In return, it would come under a measurement and verification regime in the not-too distant future.

The climate activists make no bones about it – controlling energy use in the developing world was the real prize.  This is Politico on the real ‘triumph’ of Paris:

The real triumph of Paris wasn’t America’s promises; it was the serious commitments from China, India and other developing nations that had previously insisted on their right to burn unlimited carbon until their economies caught up to the developed world.

The counter-argument from skeptically-minded lukewarmers, like Matt Ridley, was that this was terribly unfair to the poor in the developing world. Yes it would be, but the question remains: are the poor in India special? Compared to the poor in Scotland? or Pittsburgh?

Above all, ‘Paris’ was a testament to the vanity of international leaders at a particular moment in history – Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Modi.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement has called India and China’s bluff. It has reminded countries that to pursue self-interest is the best policy. Trump has reminded them not to chase mirages of ‘leadership’ at the ‘global stage.’ Milksops offered as bait to the vain will not feed the poor.

 

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