How Trump can Influence Climate Change
Over the course of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that he would remove the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Trump is an outspoken climate change sceptic and his recent cabinet appointments – Rick Perry (Department of Energy) and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency) – further cement his incredulities; both Perry and Pruitt have close ties to the fossil fuel industry. The New York Times describes Pruitt as “a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies.” These appointments are a sign of Trump’s intentions to dismantle Obama’s environmental legacy, which is aimed at lowering the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, advancing green energy and giving the U.S. a leading role in the global fight against climate change.
Several ways in which the Trump Administration may influence climate change include:
- Increasing fossil fuel production
- Repealing environmental regulations
- Halting international cooperation on climate
- Reducing financial commitments to developing countries
Increasing fossil fuel production
Trump promised during the campaign that he would “unleash an energy revolution,” in large part by making it easier to extract oil, natural gas and coal, even though domestic oil and gas production levels are near record highs. He wants to open up federal lands to oil and gas drilling and coal mining. Trump also plans on scrapping proposed regulations for tighter methane controls on domestic drillers.
Repealing environmental regulations
Trump has vowed to reverse course on Obama’s entire slate of environmental policies by rescinding “job-killing” regulations, including rules limiting oil and gas development on federal lands, as well as Obama’s signature climate initiative, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
The Clean Power Plan is currently awaiting a U.S. Appeals Court ruling after a legal challenge from West Virginia and 27 other states, which contests the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s legal authority to implement the plan. The appeal has received the backing of the coal industry, which argues that the Clean Power Plan is an illegal reorganisation of American energy grids that will lead to higher electric costs. Even if the EPA wins, a Trump administration could simply revoke the rules.
Halting international cooperation on climate
Under the Trump Administration, the fate of the country’s adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement is at risk. Because it is not a treaty and was not ratified by the Senate, Trump is under no obligation to follow up on the pledges Obama made. While Trump has shown some signs since Election Day of reconsidering his stance, he has promised to “cancel” the Agreement – potentially within the first 100 days of his presidency. Trump’s stance would make it very difficult for America to meet the emissions-cutting targets it set for itself at the UN climate summit in Paris last year. Obama promised as part of the agreement that the United States would reduce its emissions from 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025.
Reducing financial commitments to developing countries
Developing nations, such as India, have made clear that their capacity to reduce emissions depends largely on financial help from other countries. Hillary Clinton pledged that developed countries, including the United States, would commit $100 billion annually by 2020 to aid developing countries compact the impacts of global warming. However, Trump has declared that the United States would “stop all payment of U.S. tax dollars to global warming programs.” A clear signal that the United States would back down from its commitments to reduce emissions and provide financial assistance could undermine the political will in other countries to take action.
The degree to which the Trump Administration will negatively influence climate change remains to be seen. However, given the plethora of outspoken resistance to any form of climate change policy, the country’s commitment to reduce its emissions from 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 is certainly under threat. The United States is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China. If America does not fulfil its Paris Agreement pledge, the world may not be able to slow the increase in global temperatures.