The Business Case for the Paris Climate Accord

The New York Times
May 9, 2017
By Op-Ed Contributors

President Trump faces a choice that will echo across his presidency and beyond: whether to remain in the Paris climate agreement. Although most Americans, his own secretaries of state and energy, and heads of state from around the globe are urging the president to stay, he remains undecided. Let us hope that a newly invigorated pro-Paris campaign by many of America’s top C.E.O.s will sway him.

In a recent barrage of public letters and full-page ads, Fortune 100 companies are voicing strong support for remaining in the Paris accord. The breadth of this coalition is remarkable: industries from oil and gas to retail, mining, utilities, agriculture, chemicals, information and automotive. This is as close as big business gets to a consensus position.

American business leaders understand that remaining in the agreement would spur new investment, strengthen American competitiveness, create jobs, ensure American access to global markets and help reduce future business risks associated with the changing climate. Leaving Paris would yield the opposite.


The only quick and sure path to undo these regulations is through legislation. This offers the president a potent negotiating strategy: Propose a meaningful price on carbon in exchange for a rollback of Obama-era climate rules. This could pave the way for a bipartisan climate solution, and a major victory for Mr. Trump. For example, a revenue-neutral carbon tax starting at $40 per ton would meet the high end of America’s commitment under Paris, justifying the elimination of all previous carbon regulations, as we and our co-authors argued in a recent study, “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.”

If the president wants to strengthen America’s competitive position, he should combine a price on carbon with border tariffs or rebates based on carbon content. United States exports to countries without comparable carbon pricing systems would receive rebates, while imports from such countries would face tariffs on the carbon content of their products. Not only would this encourage other nations to adopt comparable carbon pricing, but it also would end today’s implicit subsidy for dirty producers overseas, which puts American businesses at a disadvantage.

Businesses supporting the Paris accord are the president’s natural allies. They can help him fashion a conservative climate solution that upholds our commitments and enhances America’s greatness.