The White House was roundly decried on the left for moving to cement the U.S. exit from the Paris agreement, but the sputtering 2015 climate accord has bigger problems than President Trump.
Nearly four years after the advent of the international pact, only two of the 32 top-emitting countries — Morocco and the Gambia — have enacted policies consistent with holding global temperature rise from pre-industrial levels below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, according to the Climate Action Tracker.
Meanwhile, greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to spiral, driven by major polluters like China and India, while governments attempting to enact strict climate policies have often faced public backlash over higher energy prices, both at the ballot box and in the streets.
To the extent that the accord is supposed to result in emissions going down, it’s flat failing,” said free-market Heartland Institute senior fellow H. Sterling Burnett. “It was signed in 2015. We’re now in 2019, and emissions have gone up for four straight years. So it’s not going in the direction it’s supposed to be going.”
A report released this week by former U.N. International Panel on Climate Change officials, “The Truth Behind the Climate Pledges,” found that of the 184 nations taking the Paris climate pledge, 65% were “insufficient” and only 19% were “sufficient.”
“When you see a country like Russia not even putting a pledge on the table, it is extremely disturbing,” former IPCC chair Sir Robert Watson told the [U.K.] Guardian. “Saudi Arabia and Russia rely heavily on their fossil fuels, but that is no excuse. Those that have not effectively made any pledges yet really should be shamed into being part of the solution.”
With populist uprisings over energy hikes hitting countries like France and Chile, however, world leaders may be more concerned about keeping their jobs than receiving a U.N. scolding.
Benny Peiser, director of the skeptical Global Warming Policy Forum in London, said the blowback over climate-change policies shows that “the Paris agreement is likely to end in failure, just like the  Kyoto Protocol did before.”
It is becoming increasingly evident that most governments around the world are prioritizing energy security, affordability and industrial competitiveness over the Paris climate agreement,” said Mr. Peiser in an email. “Green lip-service is replacing radical decarbonization targets in most capitals as governments are facing popular revolts over rising energy prices.”
The Trump administration filed formal paperwork Monday to withdraw from the agreement, the first day it could legally do so, citing the “unfair economic burden” on U.S. workers, business and taxpayers. The exit will become official Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the presidential election.
Former President Barack Obama committed to reducing emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2030, and while that goal is likely out of reach, the United States still leads the world in cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, which fell 13% from 2005-17 in large part due to natural gas replacing coal in electricity generation.
Even with the Paris exit, the Climate Action Tracker projected U.S. emissions would be 2% lower than its initial post-Trump projections.
“Trump has not stopped the fast decline of coal-fired power and the rise of renewables,” said CAT in a statement. “Indeed, despite the weakening of the Clean Power Plan, the US power sector looks set to overachieve the CPP’s emissions reduction goals.”
The U.S. emissions projections come in stark contrast to those of China, the world’s largest carbon-dioxide emitter, which was hailed as a leader of the Paris accord but has since ramped up coal-fired generation in an effort to meet rising demand for inexpensive, reliable energy.
After leveling out between 2014-16, China’s emissions rose 2.3% in 2018, the second consecutive year of growth, the tracker reported, even though the communist nation is also the world’s largest producer of solar technology.
Mr. Burnett pointed out that neither China nor India agreed to cut emissions, but rather to have their greenhouse gases peak by 2030, in what has become a major criticism of the Paris accord.
“They don’t say where it will peak at,” Mr. Burnett said. “If they double their emissions between now and 2030, or even increase them by 25% or 30%, no matter what anybody else in the world does, it doesn’t matter, because their emissions alone will swamp any reductions elsewhere.”
Yellow vests and election upsets
Where climate-woke leaders have attempted to enact Paris-driven policies, social and political unrest has often followed.
The “yellow vest” riots in Paris prompted French president Emmanuel Macron last year to reverse his carbon tax, while deadly rioting in Chile last month was fueled by a metro fare increase and 10% hike in electricity prices as the country seeks to phase out coal-fired plants by 2040.
In May, Australia’s much-ballyhooed “climate-change election” veered off course when voters unexpectedly reelected the conservative coalition fighting proposals to reduce carbon emissions and coal usage.
Australia has also joined the Trump administration in cutting off contributions to the Green Climate Fund, a proposed $100 billion pool of cash intended to help poorer nations meet their pledges under the Paris agreement.