Two days before President Donald Trump plans to sign a sweeping executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental protections, his EPA chief called the landmark 2015 international agreement to fight climate change “just a bad deal” for the U.S.
“China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free,” EPA head Scott Pruitt said in a Sunday ABC interview. Pruitt was referring to the Paris Climate Agreement, in which almost every country in the world committed to decreasing emissions of climate change–causing greenhouse gas, such as carbon dioxide (CO2). Unlike in previous agreements, both developing and developed countries pledged to help.
“[China and India] didn’t have to take steps till 2030,” Pruitt went on. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while [they] didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.”
While on the campaign trail, Trump said he would “cancel” the Paris agreement.
Pruitt also labeled the Clean Power Plan, an Obama initiative to cut power plants’ carbon pollution, as part of “past administration’s effort to kill jobs throughout the country.” The plan — already stayed thanks to a lawsuit Pruitt helped originally bring — was seen as an important part of meeting the goals the United States set in the Paris accord.
Yet Pruitt’s comment that China and India are the “largest producers of CO2 internationally” may be misleading. While China does emit more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world, the next-biggest emitter is not India, according to the U.S. Energy Information administration. That would be the United States.
While China’s energy consumption led the country to emit more than 9,000 million metric tons of carbon in 2014, the United States released about half that amount — even though the United States has less than a third of China’s population. India emitted only about 1,800 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that year.
China and the United States’ carbon emissions have declined in recent years, leading the global rate of carbon emissions to flatten even as the world economy grows. Experts say this trend may represent a “decoupling” of the conventional wisdom that economies cannot grow and go green at the same time.
But the United States’ carbon emissions may soon be on the rise again, as Pruitt revealed in his Sunday interview that Trump’s executive order will review, rescind, or revise several federal environmental protections. And its impact may be immense, according to details of the order shared with Bloomberg News.
Not only will the Clean Power Plan likely be dismantled, but other regulations are also at risk. For instance, during the Obama administration, officials had to often calculate the effects of climate change by factoring a metric called “the social cost of carbon” into their decision-making. Trump’s executive order is expected to end that policy.
These changes may help resurrect the ailing U.S. coal industry, which Trump promised to improve during his campaign.
It’s unclear whether Trump will use the order to withdraw from the Paris accord, but Pruitt said that the Clean Power Plan was “not tethered” to that agreement, suggesting that Trump may pull the United States out of the deal later on.
“This is about making sure that we have a pro-growth and pro-environment approach to how we do regulation in this country,” Pruitt said of the order.