In a press briefing held with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on January 10, President Donald Trump said that U.S. could “conceivably” re-enter into global climate change mitigation efforts under the Paris accord. While he has “no problem” with the accord itself, he felt the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration treated the U.S. unfairly, he said.
The Obama administration’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)—a published declaration submitted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—says the U.S. intends to achieve an economy-wide target of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below its 2005 level in 2025. While the NDC legally remains in place until 2019, the Trump administration has already stopped implementation, and on June 1, 2017, announced that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris agreement unless it could identify suitable terms for re-engagement.
But in the press briefing on January 10, asked by a reporter what it would take for the U.S. to reconsider its withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Trump said: “It treated the United States very unfairly and frankly, it’s an agreement that I have no problem with but I had a problem with the agreement that they signed because as usual, they made a bad deal.” However, he added: “So we could conceivably go back in.”
During the briefing, Trump appeared to stress that his administration is “very strong” on the environment. “I feel very strongly about the environment.” He added that the EPA and its “commissioners”—the EPA is headed by an administrator who has backed withdrawal from the global agreement owing to its impact on jobs—“are very very powerful in the sense that they want to have clean water, clean air—but we also want businesses that can compete. And the Paris accord really would have taken away our competitive edge. And we’re not going to let that happen. I’m not going to let that happen,” Trump said.
Trump also suggested that America’s target set in the NDC by 2025 put it at a disadvantage and would force businesses to close. Then he launched into an unclear comparison. “China, by 2030—they don’t kick in until 2030,” he said as an example. “Russia, some place in the mid-1990s, that was their standard, and that was never a good standard because that was a dirty standard for the environment.”
Norway’s head Solberg countered Trump’s claim by noting that “there are business opportunities” posed by the Paris accord. Norway’s strict regulations to reach its Paris targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 by 2030 has spurred the use of “environmental friendly and climate friendly technologies.” She added that these efforts have played a small part in Norway’s tremendous surplus. “You never miss up on a good opportunity with good environmental standards,” she said.
Norway’s power sector is almost carbon neutral, with hydropower covering roughly 95% of domestic power generation, even though it is home to the biggest hydrocarbon reserves in Europe and the fifth-largest exporter of crude oil in the world. The oil and gas sector constitutes about 22% of Norwegian gross domestic product.
Notably, Trump lauded Norway’s hydropower prowess. “One of the great assets of Norway is a thing called water, and they have tremendous hydropower, tremendous. In fact, most of your energy—your electricity—is produced by hydro,” he told Solberg.
“I wish we’d do some of that,” he remarked—possibly uninformed that the U.S., too, harbors sizable hydropower resources, which produced 267.8 TWh, or about 7% of the nation’s total generation, in 2016. In fact, U.S. hydropower generation was nearly double that of Norway, which produced 143.4 TWh of hydropower in 2016.
“Hydropower is fantastic,” Trump said. “And it’s a great asset that you have.”
—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)