The landmark Paris Agreement on climate change came under tough scrutiny yesterday from members of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, with a spirited defense of the deal by Dr. Andrew Steer, WRI President and CEO.
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, said the Paris Agreement “will increase electricity costs, ration energy and slow economic growth.” Speaking at a hearing titled, “Paris Climate Promise: A Bad Deal for America,” Smith said the global deal would hurt the U.S. economy and have no significant impact on temperatures.
Three witnesses called by the Republican majority echoed Smith’s concerns about economic impacts, climate science and the constitutionality of U.S. compliance with the Paris Agreement. Steer, called to testify by the Democratic minority, made a compelling case for the necessity of the Paris Agreement, saying that it will improve the U.S. economy while heading off the worst effects of a changing climate.
“Transitioning to a clean energy economy will create hundreds of thousands of more jobs, increase GDP and save families money on energy bills,” Steer said. “But if unchecked, the negative economic impact of climate change will profoundly undermine the U.S. economy.”
Steer responded with data to specific criticisms of the Paris Agreement, noting that:
The Paris Agreement Will Limit Global Temperature Rise
WRI analysis of more than a dozen studies shows that national climate pledges submitted as part of the Paris Agreement will limit global temperature rise to 2.7-3.7 degrees C, far lower than the business-as-usual increase of 4-5 degrees C. While this is still higher than the 2 degrees C limit needed to prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change, “fortunately, the Agreement sets up the right conditions for future improvement,” Steer said.
The Paris Agreement Is Good for the Economy
Steer cited evidence from the New Climate Economy report and other research showing that climate action is not only compatible with economic growth, it’s necessary. Last year alone, the U.S. solar industry added workers at a rate nearly 10 times faster than the overall economy.
Representative Ami Bera, a California Democrat, agreed with that assessment. “It’s smart business, it’s smart investment and it protects our planet for the next generation,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The Private Sector Widely Supports the Paris Agreement
More and more companies and investors are also realizing the economic benefits of a low-carbon pathway, supporting climate action inside and outside of the Paris Agreement. As Steer noted, in the past two years alone:
- 114 companies committed to set emissions-reduction targets in line with what the science says is necessary to limit warming to 2 degrees C;
- 63 companies pledged to transition to 100 percent renewable power;
- America’s six largest banks issued a statement in support of a global climate agreement;
- 365 companies applauded EPA’s emissions standards for U.S. power plants; and
- More than 1,000 companies are already pricing carbon internally or plan to in the next couple years.
Other Countries Are Already Acting
While one majority witness said the impact of the Agreement was uncertain because various countries might not live up to their climate commitments, Steer said the world’s major emitters are already shifting toward a low-carbon economy.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to increase the country’s installed solar capacity by 30 times, to 100 gigawatts by 2022. “Most people still perceive China to be opening up hundreds of coal plants,” Steer said. “In 2014, China shrank its consumption of coal, and in the first 10 months of 2015, coal consumption in China fell by 5 percent. China invested $120 billion in renewable energy last year.”
“Delay Is Not an Option”
That any Congressional briefing would refer to a climate agreement as a “bad deal” is disheartening. But some elected officials feel that climate skeptics are becoming an increasingly small minority—both inside and outside Washington.
“The reality is that the audience for those views is shrinking as the reality of climate change becomes evident,” said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat. “The rest of us acknowledge the task ahead, and recognize that delay is not an option.”
- LEARN MORE: Read Andrew Steer's full testimony.