Signaling Political Virtue via the Paris Accord

The latest in political virtue signaling is the “We Are Still In” movement, a self-described group of “mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors” who claim they plan to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement independently of United States policy.

Sounds bold, but the group’s own recruiting material acknowledges this commits them to nothing. Specifically, “there is no cost associated with signing the letter.” It reassures those who maintained any doubts, “Does signing this letter commit my organization to anything else?”, answering “No.”

That means they are not “Still In” for President Obama’s related promise — which President Trump canceled — to pay 22 percent of $100 billion, every year, forever, into the United Nations Green Climate Fund. The fund has just started up and already its intended recipients insist their desired annual haul is closer to $450 billion — of which $99 billion a year would come from the U.S.

Just that entry-level U.S. share of payments into the Green Climate Fund comes to around $22 billion per year, or about $70 dollars a head. In the case of particularly boastful “Still In” signatory Seattle, that would mean hundreds of millions out of its municipal coffers, annually, sent to foreign countries to pay for more expensive, less efficient energy sources. Thankfully for its residents, Seattle is not actually “Still In” the Paris treaty.

Notably, “Still In” includes some businesses either eager to strike a “green” pose for marketing’s sake or with plans to game such systems for profit at your expense. Of course, styling demands for harmful policies designed to satisfy certain interests as economic boons is nothing new. Remember, many of these parties also advocated the doomed “cap and trade” legislation.

They are not the ones who will pay the costs, which will fall on American consumers. Here’s how.

Coffee, mobile phone, and blue jean manufacturers, and other companies that largely source their products elsewhere argue that they will lose access to markets in countries that remain parties to the Paris Agreement, due to some form of political retribution.

It is true that some governments are politically unable to extract themselves from harmful policies required by Paris in which they have mired themselves — and whose constraints the U.S. rejects. Saving misguided competitors by sharing the pain — importantly, for no projected climate “gain” — is not America’s burden.

But so focused on green branding (or planned sales of emission reduction credits), these businesses overlook the larger economic implications. Mr. Trump doesn’t have this luxury.

Other countries simply see economic advantage from the U.S. inflicting the Paris agenda on itself. Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico’s undersecretary for environmental policy and planning, has threatened tariffs on U.S. goods if Mr. Trump keeps his promise to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, “to protect our environment and to protect our industries.”

That threat admits that the U.S. stands to maintain its major economic advantage, from lower energy costs, by not subjecting itself to the Paris Agreement. So of course, other countries are upset, and The New York Times suggests it knows why. “Countries imposing costs on their own industries” under Paris would claim “that United States industries are operating under an unfair trade advantage by avoiding any cost for their pollution.”

The Paris Agreement aims to erase the U.S. energy cost advantage. Period. Its costs are substantial — or “painful,” as The New York Times put it.

Staying in the Paris Agreement would impose on U.S. businesses the economic hit that our trade competitors acknowledge, with the costs passed on to American consumers — with no measurable projected climate impact.

Finally, the “Still In” movement can promise continuation with the Paris Climate Agreement all they want, but they can never join it as parties. And if they did, they would be subject to endless haranguing in court from environmental pressure groups and activist state attorneys general seeking to “ensure the promises made in Paris become reality,” as the AGs’ recruiting letter put it.

No, none of these entities is “still in” the Paris climate agreement, and they should thank their lucky stars, and Mr. Trump, for that.

Originally posted to The Washington Times.