FORE! Trump’s Paris speech was an awful mishit

The golf-loving president says he will pull the US from the Paris agreement. The UN’s renewable energy chief explains why that’s dumb in terms he’d understand

Donald Trump's decision on the Paris climate accord was what is known in golf as a 'shank' (Photo: Steve Jurvetson)

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In golf, a shank is a particularly awful mishit. And US president Donald Trump hit an astounding one this month when he announced his intention to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

Now, criticism is pelting the president like a hailstorm of golf balls. From world leaders to corporate CEOs, big-city mayors to citizens from all countries and continents, global support for the climate accord was immediate and overwhelming.

Nonetheless, I’m confident the president’s misfire will not keep us mired in a sand trap – the transition to a clean energy economic future is irreversible and I see evidence of it everywhere I travel.

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Bear with me as I take the golf analogy a step further by illustrating nine holes in the president’s misguided claims about the harm to the US from the world’s move to cleaner energy. While the president has been hanging in the club house with his coal industry friends, the rest of the world is out on the course embracing fast-growing clean energy opportunities. Consider what has happened in just the past few weeks:

  • Lured by the lower costs for wind and solar energy and the prospect of creating new jobs, Russia launched its biggest ever-auction for renewable energy projects, which it hopes will lead to 1.9 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity. A state-owned nuclear company has also committed to re-tool its factories to make wind turbines.
  • China turned on the switch to the world’s largest floating solar farm, powering 15,000 homes, on a lake severely degraded by a nearby coal mine.
  • An all-women company in India, Frontier Markets, has sold 35,000 home solar systems, 150,000 solar lamps and 15,000 clean cooking stoves, solar inverters and street lamps in just three months in India’s Rajasthan region.
  • One of Apple’s biggest suppliers, Jabil Circuit, has committed to power all of its facilities in China and 22 other countries with 100% renewable energy by the end of next year.
  • More than $10 billion of new green bonds were issued in May, bringing this year’s issuances to $45 billion and on pace to break $100 billion for the first time ever. Nigeria and Kenya are expected to issue their first-ever green bonds in the coming months.
  • An Israeli company announced plans to build a $20 million, 10-megawatt solar farm in Liberia, part of $1 billion worth of potential solar projects in countries across West Africa.
  • Clean energy stocks hardly moved in the wake of the president’s Paris withdrawal. The WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index of companies in renewable and low-carbon energy rose after the announcement.
  • For the first time since Bloomberg New Energy Finance began tracking the data, emerging economies in Latin America, Africa and Asia bought more than half of the solar PV panels exported from China, the world’s biggest producer by far. Just two years ago, less than a fifth of China’s PV exports were going to emerging economies.
  • And on the same day the president made his Paris exit speech, India’s Power Minister was touring an electric vehicle factory in Germany and extolling the country’s green power surge, as he seeks to deliver on India’s pledge to make every vehicle an e-vehicle by 2030.

I could give you nine more and then another nine. The point is that the economics of renewable energy is increasingly compelling in countries in every region of the world and at every stage of development. Prices have tumbled and more and more companies are pushing to purchase clean energy for their operations and supply chains. More and more investors are diversifying to green investments for the same reasons.

The technology and the economics haven’t changed with the change at the White House. The clean energy transition is underway, the only discussion now is how far and how fast.

Rachel Kyte is CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and special representative of the UN secretary-general for Sustainable Energy for All.

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