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Trump's Paris accord exit will save the environmental movement from itself

  • President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal is good for the environment.
  • The truth is the Paris accord is all words, and little action.
  • To save our ecology and our freedoms, we need fewer treaties and less government.

President Donald Trump is expected to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Environmentalists should rejoice!

That's right, rejoice. Because by getting the world's largest economy, (that's us), out of yet another amorphous and unenforceable international climate deal, President Trump has likely saved the environmental movement from itself. And now there's also a much better chance that millions of conservative and center/right Americans can rejoin the environmental fold.

The green movement in the U.S. and around the world has been off the tracks for decades mostly because of its faulty belief in globalist politics and big government as the solution to environmental challenges. In fact, big government and centrally-planned schemes like the Paris deal are the problem.

The first problem with the Paris deal is that, like an OPEC production quota, it's really hard to enforce and cheating is likely to be rampant. As many experts analyzing the agreement have noted, there are no explicit enforcement mechanisms in the accord. So nothing would happen to a country that even just ignored its contribution commitments. That leaves the countries that are more likely to adhere to the climate deal rules, like the U.S., at a distinct economic and political disadvantage.

It appears that the supposed triumph of the Paris agreement is that every nation coming into it publicly acknowledged the reality and challenges of climate change coming into the negotiations. Like so many other things in politics, words have become more valuable than deeds. And with no real mechanism to punish countries that cheat on this agreement, there's a chance that the Paris deal could lead to more environmental pollution, not less.

People who are really concerned with lowering emissions worldwide need to come to grips with the fact that international agreements where bad actors can't be effectively punished aren't the way to go. It may be intoxicating to see their activism rewarded with the pomp and ceremony of an accord like the Paris climate deal, but they're ultimately meaningless.

If the U.S. government wants to do something about the environment, it doesn't need to collude with foreign nations. It would be much better if it started with fixing its own house in a series of moves that conservatives and libertarians could join with liberals to support. They include:

  • Stop having all taxpayers subsidize and otherwise bolster expensive and environmentally harmful home building in coastal areas. The national flood insurance program, long opposed by liberals and anti-crony capitalist conservatives, does exactly that.
  • Government at all levels continues to build more roads when more and more evidence shows that no new roads are needed and money would be better spent on repairing old ones. Liberals have long decried the government's anti-environmental road obsession along with conservatives who oppose the continued deficit spending needed to build them.
  • Excessive regulation has basically killed new nuclear-power plant construction in this country, although nuclear power is safer and pollutes less than many traditional power sources, including coal and natural gas.

What's much more meaningful than almost any government program or regulation is the free market's own incentives to clean up the environment. Groups like the Property and Environment Research Center, (PERC) have long explained that less government, not more, is the answer.

Their cogent argument is that expanding the amount of privately-owned lands worldwide will increase responsible stewardship as opposed to continued unaccountable government ownership. And they trust the markets to reward and foster more environmentally friendly innovations and practices, as opposed to governments that rely on different levels of taxation and punishment to meet politically-influenced goals.

In real terms, America has seen the free market's more effective leadership role time after time. It was the explosion in gas prices, not government rules, that played the biggest role in the auto industry's push to make more fuel-efficient cars in the late 1970s and hybrid cars over the last 15 years. And most experts rank free market innovations and other non-government created developments as the reason why the price of solar panels is now less than half of what they were in 2008, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Paris climate deal is one of the most prominent liberal/big government vanities in history. There is simply no evidence that it would be any more effective than the Kyoto or Copenhagen deals, and it unnecessarily raises the hackles of conservatives and moderates who fear a loss of American freedoms and sovereignty. It's agreements like these, often enforced by un-elected and even anonymous bureaucrats that fuel Brexit-like sentiments around the world.

The real disaster for the ecology is the environmental movement's decision to push for these kinds of shaky international agreements that could end up harming the environment more and angering a great deal of American voters in the process.

President Trump is nixing this latest example of a bad deal for the environment and our Constitutional freedoms and both of those precious American treasures are better off for it.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

WATCH: Vladimir Putin responds to Trump's decision to leave Paris climate accord