In the United States a regulatory and political battle is going on to determine the country’s response to climate change and Donald Trump is on the wrong side of that fight.
One step back
Scott Pruitt, the current administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency was nominated for the post by Donald Trump in order to roll back the Agency’s aggressive posture developed under a series of administrators appointed by Former President Barak Obama.
Pruitt was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a tense, 52 -46 vote and before that was the Attorney General of Oklahoma where he fought against what he perceived as the federal Government’s interference in State affairs particularly in the area of environmental policy. He also systematically favored oil and gas companies in legislation and legal action and his tenure in the EPA so far confirms his trajectory.
His move lat week, which has made headlines, is to repeal the Clean Power Plan after concluding a six month review. As discussed in an earlier post, the central feature of the Clean Power Plan is to oblige American states to phase out aging coal power plants in favor a natural gas and renewable energy.
The rationale of the repeal is that the plan went further than the EPA’s legal mandate in terms of its ability to regulate the production of carbon dioxide. According to Administrator Pruitt’s interpretation, the EPA can only regulate co2 emissions at their source and thus the plan,which is all about changing sources is overstepping its authority.
What is really going on is that Trump won the election with the help of millions of dollars from the coal industry which will all but disappear if the Clean Power Plan was allowed to proceed to 2030 as originally intended. Democrats from West Virginia and North Dakota joined almost all of the republican Senators in confirming Mr. Pruitt due to the power of the coal interests in their states. A detailed discussion of the plan and how it works can be found on the web site of the Union of Concerned Scientists here.
One step forward
In parallel with the federal Government’s moving in, what many would consider, the wrong direction, American states, cities and civil society continue to go in the other way. The latest initiative is being led by California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is called America’s Pledge and essentially aims to draw together all actors including universities and businesses who are making progress on reducing carbon dioxide emissions around the country.
One group which is linked to it is an association called the Climate Mayors which include almost 400 mayors of cities across the country and another part of the puzzle is a declaration called We Are Still In signed by 2,300 leaders from all aspects of American society.
The essential message from all of these initiatives is that States, Cities and civil society will be able to meet the United States commitments in Paris or get close to them regardless of what the Trump administration odes or not do.
3 months out?
As mentioned in an earlier post last June, although the U.S has indicated it will withdraw from the Paris agreement, it actually can not do that until one day after the next presidential election on November 4th 2020. At this time it is difficult to say who will lead the Democrats against Trump (if he makes it till then) but pretty much any of the potential candidates will immediately move to re-join the accord after their inauguration in January 20th, 2021.
A list of potential candidates is provided by the Washington Post here. One of them is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.