By Rebecca Kern
The Energy Department’s closure of its Office of International Climate and Technology, which works on global emission reductions, is one of many program offices the agency is eyeing to cut as part of fiscal year 2018 budget reductions, an agency official said.
“Anticipating a smaller FY 2018 budget, the Department is looking for ways to consolidate the many duplicative programs that currently exist within DOE. This is only one example of many,” Shaylyn Hynes, the Energy Department’s press secretary, told Bloomberg BNA in a June 15 email in response to a question seeking confirmation that the office was being closed.
The Energy Department’s decision comes just weeks after President Donald Trump announced he would make good on his campaign pledge to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate pact. Trump’s June 1 decision aside, the U.S. faces what is essentially a four-year UN waiting period to leave the climate agreement, a date that would fall one day after the next presidential election.
It is also part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to downsize the agency’s work on clean energy research and development. In its FY 2018 budget request to Congress, the administration proposed cutting the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by nearly 70 percent from the fiscal year 2017 annualized continuing resolution, from approximately $2.07 billion to $636 million.
Hynes said other duplicative program offices at the agency are the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s international affairs team and the Office of International Affairs’ renewables team. “The Department is looking for ways to eliminate this kind of unnecessary duplication,” Hynes said.
These teams could be consolidated or on the cutting block, but Hynes did not respond when asked which would be eliminated.
The Office of International Climate and Technology lies within the agency’s Office of International Affairs, which coordinates the department’s international initiatives on clean energy, climate change, and technology exports.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s mission, according to the Energy Department’s website, is to “create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy” through research and development in clean energy technologies. However, critics of the budget reductions say that the office will no longer be able to operate effectively with such cuts.
The Sierra Club was dismayed by reports of the Energy Department climate office closure, saying it fit a recent pattern of withdrawal from international engagement on climate action at the recent Group of Seven summit.
“Willfully ignoring the climate crisis is recklessly and unnecessarily dangerous for families and communities across the country, and it’s clear that Trump will stop at nothing to completely isolate the United States and irreparably damage our reputation with the rest of the world,” the Sierra Club’s global climate policy director, John Coequyt, said in a statement.
Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the office closure is one more indication of U.S. withdrawal from international engagement, particularly on the climate challenge.
“Well the writing is now clearly on the wall that the Trump administration is intent on contributing to the destruction of the planet and withdrawing America from the global participation and action on climate,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Bloomberg BNA.
The move is further evidence that the Trump administration intends to continue “taking substantive steps to de-fund and remove the staff from the offices within the U.S. [agencies] that we rely on to advance our international partnerships,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), told Bloomberg BNA.
Such administration moves “aren’t easily reversible,” Coons added.
The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. Bloomberg BNA is an affiliate of Bloomberg L.P.
—With assistance from Dean Scott.
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