When President Donald Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, many lamented that America, without a seat at the international political table, would lose its leadership position in the world.
The U.S. will continue to lead because the solutions to carbon footprints and toxic emissions, along with improved efficiencies in clean energy and renewable fuels, will not be produced by political leaders or bureaucrats but by the business leaders who power American innovation.
We have become far too accustomed and comfortable looking to the political process to solve the pressing problems of our day. Politicians rarely lead, and the Paris Accord proved it with its pages of regulatory burdens and red tape. Even if every country followed the accord perfectly over the period of the agreement it would, at best, produce a negligible nudge of the needle on the global warming scale. Do we really believe that the only way to care for the environment is through an unenforceable treaty executed through the politics of an executive order? The accord was heavy on bureaucratic checklists and light on empowering and encouraging innovative solutions. That is where American leadership comes in.
Within minutes of Trump’s announcement, American companies began to make declarations that they would not only continue to meet the standards of the Paris Accord, but they intended to innovatively exceed them. That is good business, good public relations and good stewardship.
Americans are legitimately concerned about the environment. Americans care about changes in climate. Americans believe in being careful stewards of our land and resources for future generations. Americans understand that government does play a small but important part in ensuring that bad actors and bad businesses are held accountable for negative actions. Above all, Americans intuitively know that the entrepreneurial innovation that fuels our freedom is the only real renewable source for producing a better, healthier and more sustainable planet.
The kind of innovative environmental solutions the world needs will never come out of bureaucratic cubicles in Brussels or political gatherings in Paris. They won’t come from Hollywood or Capitol Hill either. On the other hand, I would bet the ranch on American innovators — I will take our entrepreneurs and inventors over an army of international politicians.
While the countries that are part of the Paris Accord will gather each year to review their checklists of actions they aspire to achieve, American companies will be busy creating the kind of innovation that will produce real results for the climate, the environment and the global community. American companies have already proven that they can create engines that produce greater gas mileage and fewer emissions — well ahead of government mandates. Our entrepreneurs have harnessed wind, solar and batteries to power cars, homes and communities. I am certain that the political leaders in the Paris accord will discuss, model and ultimately attempt to emulate the solutions American businesses continue to drive and develop.
The world is always better when America asserts both political and innovation leadership. In solving the problems of climate and environmental stewardship — if I have to choose one — I will take American business innovation every time.
The United States will continue to lead on this critical issue of climate — not because we have a seat at the table or a spot in the photo-op line of an international gathering, but because our businesses and employees and citizens will do the hard work and heavy lifting of innovating sustainable solutions.
Boyd C. Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates for a free market economy, civil society and community-driven solutions.