President Donald Trump called the Paris climate accord “draconian” and “onerous” when he announced the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement, but the decision’s benefits to Indiana’s energy landscape are unclear.
Countries plan for themselves how to make the effects of climate change less severe under the Paris climate agreement. Generally, countries can adopt renewable energy sources, limit carbon emissions, or do both.
The agreement doesn’t really impact the country’s electric utilities, which are already working to reduce carbon emissions, says Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, “simply because the cost of natural gas is low, the cost of wind and solar are now very competitive.”
The Paris agreement’s main goal limits the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Maassel says how the U.S. reaches that goal is more important than the goal itself.
“And in particular, for the electric utility industry, that means the Clean Power Plan,” Maassel says.
The Clean Power Plan is currently under review by the Trump Administration and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It would limit carbon emissions from power plants, with a focus on reducing emissions from coal-powered plants.
As for the coal industry, Bruce Stevens, president of the Indiana Coal Council, says ditching the Paris agreement is entirely positive. That sector provides 75 percent of the state’s electricity.
“It is another instance where a regulation, a treaty, is coming off of our backs,” says Stevens.
While it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the benefit to the coal industry, Stevens praises the move as another signal that Washington wants the industry to compete again.
But many businesses and climate activists say policies aimed at addressing climate change are good for the overall economy.
Companies including General Electric, Microsoft and Amazon, which opened a wind farm in Benton County last year, rebuked the president’s decision.
Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, says the move flies in the face of Trump’s pledge to create more jobs.
“Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will send the wrong signal to the global sustainable energy marketplace, hurting prospective U.S. investment in places like Indiana, which ranks second in the country in renewable energy manufacturing job potential,” says Kharbanda.
Renewable energy sources supplied 6 percent of Indiana’s electricity in 2016, up from about 2 percent in 2010.