U.S. will keep trucking, even without Paris Climate Accord

Cannon Mug Headshot
Updated Jun 7, 2017

I think we all probably have that one friend who we discover is an expert on a topic right after it becomes nationally trendy.

I’ve got this one buddy who, according to his Facebook feed, is a leading expert on the Paris Climate Accord. The discovery of this new knowledge coincided with President Donald Trump’s decision last week to leave the pact. If you’d have asked my friend six months ago, he probably would have told you the Paris Accord was a Honda dealership in France.

He’s a nice guy but, come on.

As a Top 2 contributor toward global emissions, it’s important that the U.S. take a leadership role in throttling back climate change, but it’s not as if the Paris Climate Accord was our only strategy of attack. If you need proof, you need only to look on the highway.

Trucking is surging fast forward to cleaner emissions with or without U.S. involvement in the Paris Accord. Speculation has swirled the past several months over the likelihood that President Trump would delay the implementation of Greenhouse Gas Phase 2, which drove a lot of refinements to model year 2017 heavy truck engines. With each passing day it gets less likely Trump will do anything with Phase 2 – which will have a more immediate, and arguably more lasting, impact on trucking than the Paris Agreement ever would – beyond what is already set in motion.

Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, each of the 148 countries who have ratified the agreement should regularly report its plans to mitigate global warming. That sounds a lot like the job of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and similar state agencies, and you can’t swing a dead cat on the highway without violating some kind of EPA legislation.

According to the EPA, 6,587 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were produced in the U.S. in 2015. That’s down from the year before. The U.S. didn’t sign the Paris Agreement until April of the following year and it didn’t go into force until six months ago. We’re making our own headway here.

Daimler Trucks North America President Roger Neilsen told me last month the company planned to move forward with lower emissions engines regardless of Trump’s action or inaction on Phase 2, and that’s not the first time I’ve heard this from an OEM.

Yes, the trucks are more expensive but a truck that offers 3 to 5 percent more fuel economy does offer a payback. Even if it feels like pennies being dragged through your nose, it’s still real money.

And, yes, emissions equipment is a pain to maintain but they are getting better with longer intervals and easier service access.

Shippers are also a driver of greener innovation, demanding their carriers reduce their carbon footprint. They aren’t about to reverse course over anything that happens in Paris.

In my view, pulling out of the Paris Accord doesn’t lessen the U.S.’s commitment to a cleaner planet, it just changes how we’ll arrive at one. Green trucking – be it in improved efficiency, fuel cell technology or Tesla’s electric semi – is here for good and it will play a large role in getting us, environmentally, where we all want to go.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].