World Leaders Decry Trump's Attack on Clean Energy and Climate
March 30, 2017
Alissa Scheller, Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post & Mollie Reilly / The Huffington Post
Donald Trump has signed a sweeping executive order aimed at reversing former President Barack Obama's efforts to shrink the US' carbon footprint. By undoing the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is putting carbon emissions back on an upward trajectory, thereby abandoning any hope of meeting the US emissions reduction targets set out in 2015 in the 195-country Paris Agreement -- the first global climate pact to include China and the US, the world's top polluters.
Donald Trump's Disastrous Plan To Derail US Climate Action
Alissa Scheller and Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post
(March 28, 2017) -- President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order on Tuesday aimed at reversing much of former President Barack Obama's efforts to shrink the United States' carbon footprint.
The long-awaited order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's signature policy for slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector, by far the country's biggest emitter. This review marks the first step toward scrapping the regulation.
"Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry," Trump said at the 2 p.m. signing at the EPA. "We're ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country."
Trump's order also directs the Department of the Interior to lift a temporary ban, put in place last year, on coal leasing on federal lands. In addition, it eliminates federal guidance instructing agencies to factor climate change into policymaking and disbands a team tasked with calculating the "social cost of carbon."
By undoing the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is putting projected carbon emissions back on an upward trajectory. It is also abandoning any hope of meeting the US emissions reduction targets set out in 2015 in the 195-country Paris Agreement, the first global climate pact to include China and the US, the world's top polluters.
China ratified the Paris climate deal in September. In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the US not to withdraw from the agreement. Trump's executive order does not contain language critical of the Paris accord, reflecting pressure from Trump's few advisers who don't take a hard-line stance against climate science.
To be sure, the Trump administration can't just get rid of the Clean Power Plan outright. In his previous role as Oklahoma's attorney general, EPA chief Scott Pruitt sued the Obama administration to block the plan, claiming the rule overstepped the EPA's legal mandate.
In a victory for Pruitt and other Republican state attorneys general, the Supreme Court issued a stay on implementing the plan in February 2016. But the high court's 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which categorized greenhouse gases as a pollutant, legally compels the federal environmental agency to police emissions.
"It looks like there's going to be a reopening of the whole question of the best way, the legal way, to get at the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in our country, which is the fossil fuel-fired power plants," Frank Rambo, head of clean energy and air pollution at the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center, told The Huffington Post in an interview ahead of the order's release.
Environmentalists are likely to sue to protect the Clean Power Plan, forcing the White House to prove in court that the regulation meets the legal standard of "arbitrary and capricious." To successfully employ this standard to overturn a previous court ruling, White House attorneys would have to debunk the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is man-made.
The biggest problem with dismantling the Clean Power Plan is that the plan itself represents only a preliminary step toward reaching emissions reduction goals. Even if the plan were to be perfectly implemented, the US would still be progressing only halfway toward achieving its emissions goals for 2025. Trump may fail to completely undo the plan, but his administration seems unlikely to enact other policies to reduce emissions.
Trump pledged to boost the US economy by gutting environmental regulations he blames for holding back businesses. Earlier this month, he proposed slashing the EPA budget by nearly one-third, eliminating popular programs like Energy Star and hampering the agency's enforcement division. The EPA already rescinded a rule this month requiring oil and gas drillers to report leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 40 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Kneecapping US participation in the Paris Agreement could jeopardize the future of the deal itself. The accord, signed in December 2015, set out global emissions targets far below what's required to prevent world temperatures from surpassing the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase that scientists say will irreversibly damage human civilization.
The language of the Paris deal urges the United Nations to reconvene every five years to set new, more stringent goals. If a country as wealthy and powerful as the US fails to meet its baseline commitments, it's unlikely that poor, developing countries that depend on fossil fuels to grow their economies will make ambitious emissions cuts themselves.
The failure of previous global deals, such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, hinged in large part on the US's refusal to implement emission cuts. And already, Trump has proposed curtailing payments to the U.N.-administered Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer countries build renewable energy infrastructure and prepare for the effects of climate change.
"The world is safer when America is strong," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a speech before Trump. "Our strength relies on energy."
World Leaders Say Donald Trump Is Taking
A Major Step Backward On Climate Change
Mollie Reilly / The Huffington Post
(March 29, 2017) -- Leaders across the globe are speaking out against President Donald Trump's executive order rolling back Obama-era policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, criticizing the move as a setback in the global fight against climate change.
Trump's order begins the process of reversing regulations put in place by former President Barack Obama to reduce the nation's carbon footprint. Specifically, the order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to review Obama's Clean Power Plan. The order also instructs the Department of the Interior to lift the temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands.
These moves greatly diminish the United States' chances of meeting the emissions targets agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international climate deal signed by 195 countries with the goal of limiting global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
After Trump signed the order, many countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal. Among those speaking out was China, now seen as the de facto global leader on climate policy.
"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday.
"We are willing to work with the international community to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, to join hands to promote the process of tackling climate change to jointly promote green, low carbon sustainable development for the whole world, to create an even better future for the next generation."
Laurent Fabius, who played a major role in the Paris climate talks when he was France's foreign minister, said Trump's order is a setback for the fight against rising global temperatures.
"The initial decisions from the new US president's administration concerning the battle against global warming constitute a very serious step backwards," he said in a statement.
Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union's top climate official, also spoke out against the US president, but vowed to uphold the EU's commitment to the Paris Agreement.
"We regret the US is rolling back the main pillar of its climate policy, the clean power plan," he said in a statement. "The continued leadership of the EU, China and many other major economies is now more important than ever. When it comes to climate and the global clean energy transition, there cannot be vacuums, there can only be drivers, and we are committed to driving this agenda forward."
Germany's environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, warned Trump that reversing Obama's climate policies could hurt the American economy as other nations take the lead on renewable energy.
"Whoever tries to change into reverse gear is only going to harm themselves," she said.
Mollie Reilly is Deputy Politics Editor at The Huffington Post
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