The free market and the Paris Accord

October 11, 2017 by Denis Pombriant

Gov. Jerry Brown, D-CA

We’ve said before that the issue of climate change and what to do about it is transferring from the public sector to the private sector. We take a dim view of the Trump administration’s recent formalization of the decision to deconstruct the Clean Power Plan for instance. Obviously, government policies can still impact how climate policies roll out but increasingly, the free market with its focus on profits, is viewing climate change and its abatement as a solid profit-making opportunity. It also doesn’t hurt that more people are realizing that fossil fuels are running out and we need a plan B.

The latest evidence away from powerful government interests and toward the free market could be seen at the recent opening of the General Session of the United Nations as governors from around the US met with foreign leaders with a single message, “We’re still in this thing,” regardless of the federal government’s position on the Paris Climate Accord.

At least 13 governors have come together as the United States Climate Alliance to deliver their message to world leaders including Gov. Jerry Brown of California whose state has the seventh largest economy in the world if it were ranked as a country. Each state has full authority to develop its economy as it sees fit and developing their states’ economies to profit from taking action against climate change is well within their purviews.

Nonetheless there’s still too much talk about emissions, even if the discussion is about lowering them, to do an optimal amount of good. There is already too much carbon in the air and water and slowing its accumulation, which is what limiting emissions effectively does, is insufficient. We now need approaches to reducing what’s out there while getting to a zero emissions economy. Both these things are possible. In a recent New York Times editorial, “Using the E.P.A. to Prop Up Big Coal” the editorial board noted that multiple leaders of big electric utilities all had similar messages,

“We’re not going to build any more coal plants; that’s not going to happen,” Chris Beam, head of Appalachian Power, West Virginia’s largest utility, bluntly told the state last April, despite President Trump’s phantasmagorical campaign promise to resurrect lost jobs for coal miners. No less candid, Lynn Good, the head of Duke Energy, America’s largest utility, defended the closing of 12 coal plants across five years, with more to come, in order to cut the company’s coal-fired energy output by a third: “Our strategy will continue to be to drive carbon out of our business.”

That’s the holy grail but more needs to be done including increasing the amount of photosynthesis occurring on the planet to reabsorb carbon dioxide and increasing our reliance on electricity with the concomitant re-engineering of the electric grid. But long story short all of this is underway prompted by state governors.





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