Published: Wed, March 29, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Trump signs order sweeping away Obama-era climate policies

Meanwhile, he governors of California and NY say they'll help fill the void left by the federal government after President Donald Trump signed an executive order unraveling former President Barack Obama's plan to curb global warming. The policy was also integral in keeping the USA on track to meet its goals as per the Paris Agreement, an worldwide accord detailing specific carbon emission reductions. "The United States should be investing in cleaner water and cleaner air and in renewable energy, not ignoring basic scientific facts and rolling back the great progress we've made in addressing climate change".

Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement that the order as "common sense" and necessary to "advance the US energy renaissance". The plan was Obama's primary tool to meet the country's emissions reductions goals under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Trump's executive order would, however, move to make it easier to mine coal by rescinding the moratorium on coal mining on United States federal lands and opening the door to fewer restrictions on carbon emissions produced by power plants. The agreement pledges to cut carbon emissions by nearly 30 percent by 2025 in comparison to 2005 emissions levels.

Trump added, "We're going to have clean coal, really clean coal".

"All countries need to do more and do it faster".

The director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, David Doniger, told The Washington Post that unwinding the Clean Power Plan will not happen quickly, however, no matter what Trump wants.

"It's indeed a rather negative news", Jiang said, but insisting that it's not necessarily impacting China in a negative way.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy and environment policy counsel for Consumers Union, said the goal of short-term gain risks the Clean Power Plan's long-term benefits, pointing to an estimated $150 a year in annual savings per household on utility bills by 2030.

Now approaching its 70th day in power, the Trump administration has been mum on the impact of rising sea levels and temperatures around the world, and their relation to drought, food scarcity and other issues.

The President has already vowed to slash EPA funding by a third and appointed Scott Pruitt - who previously sued the agency - as its head.

"Since 2015, I have stated that regulations like the Clean Power Plan assume power for the president that has never been given in law", said Lankford.

The order covers a range of other Obama-era rules, including repeal of measures to consider the "social cost" of carbon emissions in all regulatory actions and crack down on methane emissions at oil and gas wells.

However, while emissions in the USA could continue to decline due to market forces and coal-to-gas switching, and a growth in renewable sources of electricity, it is hardly assured that will continue.

Over the last several years, the American natural gas industry has rapidly expanded, leading to cheaper and more abundant natural gas.

Overall, estimates vary on just where the USA will be in 2025 or 2030 without the Clean Power Plan.

Most understand that Trump's order will go to court, and a number have questioned whether Trump will even be able to implement his order. Lubber was especially critical of efforts to unwind the Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at reducing carbon pollution from USA power plants.

Analysts anticipate Tuesday's executive orders may slow down a multi-year trend of mine closures, but few predict the industry to greatly expand its workforce given that coal companies have already embraced automation and no longer require the labor they once did. They're taking the position that the president and the executive office of the president shouldn't be in court, that the court doesn't have jurisdiction to order the president and the executive office to do anything.

Other environmentalists, meanwhile, are focusing on fighting Trump through protest. "If the USA steps back, China will be happy to step forward".

Any one of those proposals would probably do more good for the future of coal country than anything in Trump's executive order.

Another outcome of the decision for the US, says Waskow, would likely be a loss of influence as climate change becomes more and more central to negotiations between countries. Some conservative groups have pushed to withdraw the so-called endangerment finding, but Trump's EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, has said the finding "needs to be enforced and respected".

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