Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tired of Panic - Paris Climate Accord Edition

The President of the US, Donald Trump, has decided to push for the US to leave the Paris Climate Accord.  The world is imploding!  Well, looking at Twitter it seems the world is imploding.

There are certain hot-takes that basically suggest that the world will drown in 3, 2...

There are certain hot-takes that basically suggest that we are aligned with Syria by doing this.  (There are those that mention Nicaragua, but that country's non-participation is much more complicated).

For the things noted above, sigh, I don't care because they are bull excrement (yes, figuratively).


Within the Paris Accord, the US voluntarily set some goals about reducing emissions.  The US is currently near on track to meet those goals.  Further, many, if not most, heavy industries will - purely for commercial/marketing reasons - continue to support those goals within the US.  Then, a number of US Cities, followed by US States have pledged, individually, to support these goals, too.  I have serious doubts about whether this national action is actually going to change the emissions trends.  Emissions progress could slow down, but if so, I think it was probably going to slow down anyway.  There may even be enough idiots "blowing coal" to slow progress.  Ultimately, the accord had zero penalties for missed goals.

Also within the Paris Accord, the US pledged a fairly large sum of money to help developing countries reach their own goals.  This one does matter, or - well - it did until former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg offered to pay this himself.  It totally sucks that he had to do that, but it takes away the financial consequence.

Here's my "hot take".  Bloomberg paying this bill on behalf of the US makes this a victory for Trump.  The federal government saves some money, and nobody is really hurt.  That is, the conservative argument about such things has always been around letting the market decide.  Well, Bloomberg wanted this enough that he decided to pay for it.  The free market wins.

There's something much more subtle here that isn't mentioned with quite the flourish and panic, but it is the one thing that really does bother me.  The US is a major leader in clean energy initiatives and technologies.  The US leadership in the Paris Climate Accord is a big selling point for that new and flourishing industry.  Those industries no longer get that marketing "win".  That could have serious financial consequences in an industry that employs far more people than the coal industry.

It could be argued that China was going to surpass us in this industry anyway, but that has been true of computer parts for a long time, and Apple still does just fine ... in partnership with Chinese manufacturing.  In this case, it seems quite likely that China will be able to use this as a pivot to show that they don't need US partnership to build out clean energy infrastructure and sell those components to others.

I think that this marketing spin has a huge amount to do with which cities and states signed on to carry on the Paris Accord...  These are the places where clean industries have a foot print.  So, maybe those California based industries (like Apple has long done) will simply say "Designed in California", and everyone will know that California was one of the first US states to reject the federal decision, and support the Paris Accords anyway.

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