Trump Win Heralds Halt Ahead on U.S. Climate Policy

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By Renee Schoof

President-elect Donald Trump mocked climate change as a candidate, and as president he plans to halt U.S. participation in the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and to ramp up production and use of the fuels that are driving the shift in climate worldwide.

The effects of the election victory could slam the brakes on the Obama administration’s efforts to help the world avert the worst damage from rising seas, heat waves, drought and extreme weather.

Trump said he would pull out of the Paris climate agreement, end U.S. contributions to a fund to help the world’s poorest countries reduce carbon emissions and cope with climate change, and end spending on clean energy research and other climate-related projects in the U.S.

Climate Change Dismissed

Trump dismissed the importance of climate change repeatedly. During a Dec. 31 rally in South Carolina, calling it a “money-making industry” and a hoax. His campaign said it would end “wasteful” spending related to climate change and save $100 billion.

The Republican businessman held to those positions in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is the primary driver of the climate change observed in recent decades.

Trump will take office as temperatures trend upward. Last year was Earth’s hottest on record, and 2011 to 2015 was the hottest half-decade, while sea levels rose and Arctic sea-ice extent declined, the World Meteorological Organization said in a Nov. 8 report on the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases.

The Paris Agreement, signed by 197 countries last year, was a pledge to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and work toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions. United Nations negotiators are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, to find additional carbon dioxide reductions needed to prevent the damage expected if warming exceeds that 2-degree target.

Trump said the U.S. would pull out of the negotiations and end contributions to a fund the world’s wealthiest countries are building to help the poorest ones with climate change.

He also said he would scrap the Obama administration’s centerpiece on climate action—the Clean Power Plan, which puts the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The rule is now stayed by the U.S. Supreme court pending the outcome of all litigation. Trump would be likely to direct the Justice Department to stop defending it.

Policies to be Reversed

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance in Washington, D.C., a group that endorsed Trump, said the Republican president-elect would “shatter the status quo with respect to energy policy.”

“Trump has promised to reverse policies that unjustly target the use of our natural gas, oil, and coal resources because he knows that affordable energy is the lifeblood of a strong economy and is essential to job creation, not just in the energy industry, but throughout the economy,” Pyle told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

Pyle also said Trump likely would consider downsizing the Department of Energy and ending government support for renewable energy development, relying on the market for energy decisions.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters Action Fund endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“As Big Polluters’ new best friend, Trump’s ‘plan’ is pro-drilling, anti-EPA and is dangerous to our clean air and water,” League of Conservation Voters Action Fund Senior Vice President of Communications David Willett said in a statement in May, after Trump gave a speech on energy. “It does nothing to arrest our rapidly changing climate and the extreme weather already impacting Americans. Trump sure did cut a deal today, a bad one for American families, offering to trade away protections for the health of our families and a clean energy future just so he could give big oil exactly what they wanted to hear.”

Cutting EPA

Trump’s environmental policies sketched out during the campaign included big—though unspecified—cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. His energy policy adopted much of the Republican position that seeks energy independence and opposes the Obama administration’s regulatory initiatives.

He is expected to end the leasing moratorium for coal on federal lands and open up more public land for fossil fuel extraction.

“America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy—some $50 trillion dollars in shale energy, oil reserves and natural gas on federal lands, in addition to hundreds of years of coal energy reserves,” Trump said at the Shale Insight conference, a gathering of natural gas producers in Pittsburgh Sept. 22, promising to “lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Schoof in Washington at rschoof@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com