PODCAST: Experts discuss climate and energy policy, Paris Agreement, in Trump administration

Participants are seen in silhouette as they look at a screen showing a world map with climate anomalies during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1XPHY

As the Senate considers the appointment of officials who will carry out climate and energy policy in the new Trump administration, hear what two Brookings experts had to say in a recent episode of the Intersections podcast.

Bruce Jones, vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, says that the U.S. “was not going to meet its Paris target [on emissions reductions] if Hillary Clinton got elected, and it’s not going to meet its Paris target with Donald Trump as elected president of the United States.” However, Jones said,

If the United States at this juncture were to walk away from Paris, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen, which is that Beijing will say “fine, we’ll lead.” And the rest of the world will follow, because the rest of the world is convinced of this pathway, and is making investments in this pathway, and they don’t want to see it eroded. China is now the world’s largest emitter, it’s a huge market, it has the bandwidth to do this in diplomatic and scientific terms, so it’s not going to be the case that if the U.S. walks away that the mechanism will collapse.  What will happen is that the mechanism will continue and the U.S. will not be a leader; China will lead.

David Victor, co-chair, with Jones, of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative, said that the “Paris process as a whole was not going to stop global warming well below two degrees, which was the established goal of the whole enterprise.” There is, he said, a “tremendous amount of inertia in the energy system; it’s difficult to change directions and the bold visions of how quickly we can transform the energy system aren’t being met by the reality on the ground.”

Victor said that many are being “hyperbolic” about what the Trump administration is going to do. “I don’t think we are going to see the Trump administration adopt a lot of new policies around de-carbonization … but I think the key point is that firms know they need to de-carbonize.”


Learn more about the Energy Security and Climate Initiative.

Intersections is a podcast where two experts discuss angles on policy issues, hosted by Adrianna Pita, and brought to you by the Brookings Podcast Network.