What a Trump Presidency Means for the Fight Against Climate Change

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What a Trump Presidency Means for the Fight Against Climate Change

“The 12-day talks started with a bang,”1 the United Nations Climate Conference 2016 (otherwise known as COP22 or Conference of Parties 22) reported in a press release on 07 November. There was much to celebrate — a hundred countries have already ratified the Paris Agreement.

A day after such a positive announcement, earth-shaking news came from across the Atlantic Ocean. Donald Trump won the U.S. elections.

Related Post: Donald Trump is President: How a Divided America Can Begin to Heal

Trump’s win has quite a dampening effect on the ongoing climate change negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco.

Trump on climate change

The President-elect has dubbed climate change as a “Chinese hoax”2 and has repeatedly tweeted his stand against it, noting that it is “a total, very expensive hoax.”3

While his official website has not published his position on environmental issues, Trump has repeatedly made a stand on:

  1. Pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change;
  2. Cutting “expensive” climate funding;
  3. Eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency;
  4. Repealing environmental regulations; and
  5. Reviving the coal industry.4

Trump cannot just pull out of the Paris accord because that has a four-year withdrawal process. However, as the U.S. President, he can choose not to honor Obama’s commitments, such as cutting carbon dioxide emissions 26-28 percent by 2025. Or, Trump can simply terminate U.S. membership from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since this only has a one-year exit process. By withdrawing from the UNFCC, he will automatically be exiting from the Paris Agreement.5

The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, hence, the serious repercussions for the environment. This will also send a signal to other countries not to follow through with their commitments to the Paris Agreement. It is important to note that the U.S. is the lynchpin in the agreement, with Obama jointly ratifying the climate change deal with China’s Xi Jinping in September this year.

Another serious issue is canceling funding for the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is the highest contributor to the climate fund.

Related Post: The Lay Person’s Guide to the Paris Agreement & UN Development Goals

“We’re going to put America first. That includes canceling billions in climate change spending for the United Nations, a number [Hillary Clinton] wants to increase, and instead use that money to provide for American infrastructure including clean water, clean air, and safety,” Trump said at a speech in Michigan. “We’re giving away billions and billions and billions of dollars.”6

Under a Trump presidency, we can expect less investment in clean energy.

In terms of the EPA, Trump has long made known his disdain for it. In a 2015 interview, he said, “environmental protection, what they do is a disgrace; every week they come out with new regulations.”7 Worse, he has turned to Myron Ebell, a well-known climate change skeptic and head of energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to head his transition team at the EPA.8 He is expected to reduce the role of the EPA to an advisory one.

Further, Trump is expected to repeal most of Obama’s environmental policies such as the Clean Power Plan which sets standards for power plants and states to cut their pollution as well as proposed tighter methane controls.

“Any regulation that’s outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped and scrapped completely,” Trump said in a campaign speech in oil-rich North Dakota.9

Related Post: Dakota Access Pipeline Protests: A New Frontier in the Fight for Indigenous Rights & Climate Change

Analysts also say that Trump’s position on energy does not make sense. He wants to revitalize the coal industry to create more jobs. He wants a boost on fossil fuels to spur the economy.10

We don’t expect there will be restrictions on carbon emissions under President Trump.

But can Trump do it? Yes, because Obama’s environmental policies are executive orders and can be overturned. Plus, Republicans have retained control of the U.S. Congress.

So far, Trump has not issued any policy paper on climate change, except for his speeches and tweets. His official website contains his position on energy but not climate change. It is expected that climate change advocates, experts and the world at large will definitely wait with bated breath on how the Trump administration will concretely deal with the environment and climate change issue.

Related Post: The World Unites to Address Climate Change

In a statement, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said that she “look[s] forward to engaging with his [Trump’s] administration to take the climate action agenda forward for the benefit of the peoples of the globe.”11

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that the UN will continue to count on Trump’s support to international cooperation against global challenges. He said that the UN hopes “to uphold shared ideals, combat climate change, advance human rights, promote mutual understanding” and implement U.N. goals for 2030 with the US as its partner.”12

Now over to you: Are you worried about the impact of President Trump on our environment? Or not at all? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Show 12 footnotes

  1.  Marrakech COP 22. 2016. “COP22: The first 48 hours.” http://www.cop22-morocco.com/news/cop22-the-first-48-hours-97.html.
  2.  Davenport. Coral. “Donald Trump could put climate change on course for Danger Zone.” New York Times.
  3.  Trump tweets. 2015. In: Mellino, Cole. “ 6 of Donald Trump’s Most Outrageous Tweets on Climate Change.” EcoWatch http://www.ecowatch.com/6-of-donald-trumps-most-outrageous-tweets-on-climate-change-1882108349.html.
  4. Chen, Angela. 2016. What does a Trump presidency mean for climate change?. The Verge. http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/10/13579222/trump-presidency-climate-change-energy-environment-coal.
  5.  Chemnick, Jean. “Could Trump simple withdraw U.S. from Paris Climate Agreement?. ClimateWire. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-trump-simply-withdraw-u-s-from-paris-climate-agreement/.
  6.  Prupis, Nadia. 2016. Trump says cutting climate funds would save $100 billion. Climate reality says otherwise. CommonDreams. http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/11/03/trump-says-cutting-climate-funds-would-save-100-billion-climate-reality-says.
  7.  Full interview of Donald Trump by Chris Wallace. FOX News Sunday. In: RealClear Politics. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/10/18/full_replay_and_transcript_donald_trump_with_fncs_chris_wallace.html.
  8.  Mufson, Steven and Dennis, Brady. 2016. Trump victory reverses energy and environmental priorities. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/09/trump-victory-reverses-u-s-energy-and-environmental-priorities/.
  9.  Volcovici, Valerie and Stephenson, Emily. 2016. “Trump vows to undo Obama’s climate change agenda in appeal to oil sector.” Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-energy-idUSKCN0YH2D9.
  10.  Shoen, John. 2016. “Regulation buster Trump takes aim at the EPA.” CNBC. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/09/regulation-buster-trump-takes-aim-at-the-epa.html
  11.  Woody, Christopher. 2016. “How the world has responded to Donald Trump’s presidential victory.” Business Insider. http://uk.businessinsider.com/world-leaders-reaction-donald-trump-election-2016-11?r=US&IR=T/#france-1.
  12.  The Associated Press. 2016. “The Latest: SKorea media say Trump promises military support.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/09/world/asia/ap-us-2016-election-world-reaction-the-latest.html?_r=0.

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