United States

United States

Update - Trump starts roll-back on climate change policy

UNITED STATES: President Trump signed the executive order to review his predecessor's Clean Power Plan (CPP) on 28 March, but has yet to decide whether to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Trump described his executive order as 'putting an end to the war on coal'
Trump described his executive order as 'putting an end to the war on coal'

"My administration is putting an end to the war on coal," said Trump at the signing, when he also announced the rescinding of a moratorium on coal mining on US federal lands.

But the effect of the executive order on US wind power development is likely to be minimal, at least in the short- and medium-term.

The CPP is currently tied up in the courts through legal challenges, and was not expected to make a difference in the shift towards renewables until the early 2020s.

It will also take several years for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite the CPP, not least because Trump has proposed a swingeing 31% cut to the EPA’s budget.

The CPP has been described as locking-in a transformation already under way.

"Clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America," said Michael Brune, executive director of environmental organisation Sierra Club.

"That growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day," he said.

US power sector CO2 emissions had already dropped some 20% by the end of 2015 compared with 2005 levels. The CPP requires a 32% cut by 2030.

Especially interesting is what Trump's executive order omitted, such as whether the US stays in the 2015 Paris climate accord, signed by nearly 200 countries.

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised to pull the US out of the agreement.

On 30 March, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump would decide whether to exit the agreement by 26 May, when a conference of the G7 nations starts in Italy.

White House aides "are currently reviewing issues related to the agreement", Spicer told reporters at his daily press briefing.

Nor has Trump ordered the EPA to reassess its crucial 2009 "endangerment finding", in which the agency stated that climate pollution threatens human health and welfare.

"That would ratchet up the destruction" of climate change policies, said Dr Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy manager for the climate and energy programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The endangerment finding is based on serious scientific and legal opinion, she said. Overturning it would be a lengthy process, requiring the EPA to review the science and come to a different conclusion.

"Anything we knew in 2009 [about climate change] is even clearer now," she said. "It would be difficult to unwind it."

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