Published on April 26th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
Rick Perry Wants America To Remain In Paris Accords, But To Renegotiate
April 26th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has added his voice to the growing number of Trump advisers recommending the new President keep the country in the Paris Agreement, but he has called on the President to renegotiate the deal in an attempt to push European nations to assume a larger share of emissions reductions.
Photo by Michael Vadon
Speaking to investors and executives at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on Tuesday, Perry said that “I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from the Paris accord,” but rather that “we need to renegotiate it.” Specifically, Perry criticised Germany for “cheerleading” the Paris Agreement despite allowing their emissions to increase as they close down nuclear plants and burn more coal to compensate. Perry further argued that the United States has aggressively cut emissions by allowing natural gas to replace coal.
“Don’t sign an agreement and expect us to stay in if you’re not really going to participate and be a part of it,” Perry said. “We need to renegotiate it. They need to get serious.”
At this point, I feel as if maybe a little context is needed in an effort to accurately parse what Rick Perry has said, because while he technically never lied, the “truth” he decided to share with people at the BNEF conference is definitely nowhere near to being the whole story.
One thing he did get right was highlighting the seeming double-standard Germany is currently portraying. While Germany has been a strong proponent of the Paris Agreement, it’s own efforts have fallen well short of its hopes for the European Union as a whole. According to Eurostat — the statistical office of the European Union — Germany is far and away the leading greenhouse gas emitter across the entire 28 Member State European Union. With the most recent figures from 2014, Germany accounted for 21.9% of the entire European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions, with 969.1 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions.
Separate preliminary figures from Germany’s own Federal Environmental Agency (the Umweltbundesamt, or UBA) show that Germany’s emissions increased by 0.4% in 2016 — one of several increases over the last few decades.
What I find somewhat disingenuous, however, is Rick Perry’s assertion that the entire Paris Agreement should be renegotiated based on some nebulous idea that the United States has done more to curb its emissions than the EU — based on Germany’s experiences alone. As can be seen in the Eurostat chart above, Germany is a significant outlier, and only the United Kingdom and France even reach into the double-digits in terms of total share of emissions in the EU. Figures published earlier this year showed that UK emissions are down 38% between 1990 and 2015. Meanwhile, figures published in March by UK’s Carbon Brief showed that the country’s carbon dioxide emissions fell by 5.8% in 2016 due in part to a record 52% collapse in the use of coal.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the EPA, which are only up to 2015, show that emissions only fell by 2.3% between 2014 and 2015. Further, as can be seen in the graph below from Carbon Brief, the United States still remains the globe’s second-largest emitter — ahead of the entire European Union, which has continued to decrease its emissions between 1990 and 2015.
Perry Sticks To Trump Pablum
Should the Paris Agreement be renegotiated so that Europe takes more of the share? Of course not — the European Union remains one of the leading regions in terms of decreasing its overall emissions, even if one country out of 28 is seen to be lagging behind somewhat.
Further, America doesn’t appear to be willing to commit to any hard goals itself. In the same speech in which he castigated Europe, Rick Perry fell right in line with the Trump energy script, making clear that fossil fuels are likely to remain the centrepiece of the country’s energy mix.
“These politically driven policies — driven primarily by hostility toward coal — threaten the reliability and the stability of the greatest electrical grid in the world,” Perry said. Putting aside the irrational assumption that anything and everything American is somehow “the greatest … in the world,” actions will remain to speak louder than words, and if Donald Trump and co. turn up hoping to renegotiate the Paris Agreement, here’s hoping someone casts an eye over the reality of which country is actually contributing to global emissions.