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August 29, 2017

President Trump Was Right About China and the Paris Agreement


The Wall Street Journal reports that coal is making a comeback, just as President Trump pledged. The twist? China is driving that comeback. 

According to the Journal, “China’s re-emergence as a coal importer has boosted the fortunes of U.S. producers who are now shipping more coal abroad than any time in the last two years.” 

Remember how earlier this year foreign leaders, environmentalists and the media the world over praised China’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement, while skewering Trump for pulling the U.S. out of the agreement? 

When he announced his decision, Trump said, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.” 

Politifact challenged Trump’s claim that the U.S. can’t build coal plants, calling it false because there was no treaty clause restricting that building. However, Politifact’s assessment was disingenuous at best. 

It wasn’t widely understood by the public at the time, but under the agreement China would continue to increase its greenhouse gas emissions until 2030. 

In order to impress a very gullible environmental community—and because coal prices had bottomed out—China had cut its coal production, creating supply problems around the world. According to the Journal, “The chain reaction led to more U.S. [coal] exports going to every continent”—including China. 

However, given that coal produces about twice the carbon emissions that natural gas does, and that the U.S. had volunteered to begin reducing carbon emissions immediately under the agreement, the U.S. was effectively, if not specifically, prohibited from allowing the construction of more coal plants. 

Incidentally, in his statement Trump also mentioned, “the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” Right again. 

Under the agreement, the richer countries, especially the U.S., were supposed to hand out $100 billion per year in aid to other countries—which is the biggest reason why so many developing countries strongly supported the agreement. 

But that figure was a floor; as NPR pointed out it was supposed to rise over time. And there would be a lot of international pressure for the U.S. to bear the lion’s share of that $100 billion burden. 

So China is responsible for the U.S. coal boom, even as the U.S. has been reducing greenhouse gas emissions for more than a decade. And yet the environmentalists wink at China while cursing Trump.


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