The Trump administration has made no secret of its plans to dismantle the climate policies of former President Barack Obama.
But what Trump officials bring in fervor, they sometimes lack in understanding.
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), railed against the Paris Climate Agreement in an interview with ABC News on Sunday. He called the landmark climate change accord a “bad deal” that unfairly penalizes the United States, while giving a free pass to other major polluting countries.
“What was wrong with Paris was … that China and India, the largest producers of [carbon dioxide] internationally, got away scot free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030,” Pruitt told anchor George Stephanopoulos.
“So we penalized ourselves through lost jobs, while China and India didn’t take steps to address this issue internationally,” Pruitt said.
As the EPA chief sees it, the U.S. is being forced to go on a carbon diet while China and India get to gobble all the coal, oil and natural gas they could ever want.
The problem with Pruitt’s statement is that both China and India committed to taking aggressive actions under the Paris Climate Agreement. They are leading the global boom in renewable energy, with China rolling out massive offshore wind farms and fleets of electric cars, and India rapidly building rooftop solar.
True, China and India still burn huge amounts of fossil fuels. But the governments of those growing nations are seeking alternatives. They’re also poised to snag many of the renewable energy jobs and investment dollars the U.S. would turn down if it scraps its climate policies, experts say.
When it comes to the Paris treaty, Pruitt’s criticisms that China and India get off “scot free” would’ve made more sense if he was talking about the 1992 Kyoto Protocol.
His confusion isn’t entirely surprising, considering that Pruitt, who denies the reality of human-caused climate change, seems to be living in the distant past when it comes climate science.
The United States signed Kyoto, but then-President George W. Bush later rejected it because China, India and other emerging economies did not face legally binding requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
For decades, this tension between developed and developing countries stalled progress on global climate talks.
But in 2014, the United States and China helped end the stalemate by jointly committing their nations to fighting climate change. A year later in Paris, the heads of nearly 200 nations — the U.S., China and India included — all agreed to lower their respective emissions.
Countries committed to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels through 2100. They also set an aspirational goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Each government submitted its own plan for reducing emissions. Unlike Kyoto, however, none of those plans are actually legally binding — a fact that environmental groups say make the overall plan pretty weak, but which Pruitt seems to loathe anyway.
Still, it doesn’t penalize one country and reward another.
The United States, the world’s second-largest emitter after China, pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.
China, meanwhile, agreed to peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and make best efforts to peak earlier. More recent analyses show China’s emissions could peak closer to the middle of the decade than 2030.
The world’s top carbon emitter also pledged to increase use of non-fossil fuel-based energy to 20 percent of its energy consumption within the same time frame.
India, which accounts for 4.5 percent of global emissions, set targets to lower its emissions intensity — or emissions per unit of economic output — by up to 35 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The nation of 1.3 billion people also agreed to boost the share of renewable electricity capacity to 40 percent of its installed power base by 2030. That involves nothing less than an electricity revolution in a nation where 300 million still lack access to the grid.
While it’s true the U.S., China and India don’t have the same targets, that’s not a reflection of the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s a reflection of each government’s choices.
Still, none of this will convince Pruitt and the Trump administration to stick with the Paris agreement. And it certainly won’t sway them to keep the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the emissions-cutting program that would help the U.S. meet its Paris targets.
Pruitt told ABC News that President Donald Trump will sign an executive order to begin rolling it back this week.