In-depth


Trump alone on climate issues

John Dyer
10 July 2017 | updated 10 July 2017

Donald Trump stood alone at the G20 summit in Hamburg on climate issues. And he’s increasingly finding himself alone at home, too. Many US companies are calling for climate action, and courts are blocking Trump’s pro oil and gas efforts.

Boston. While President Donald Trump defended withdrawing the United States form the Paris climate change agreement at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Americans are opposing his environmental agenda back home.

Environmentalists are battling the Republican president’s environmental policies in the courts. Governors and other local politicians are enacting measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Large corporations are also pursuing anti-climate change efforts, too.

California organising environmental summit

“It’s hard to grasp the mortal danger that climate change represents,” said California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat who was in Hamburg meeting with environmental activists. “I believe that California, New York, France and Germany and the other countries — we have to get our act together, strengthen our commitment and bring as many nations along as we can.”

Governor Brown has called for an environmental summit with world leaders in San Francisco next year that would occur with or without Trump officials. Supporting his effort is Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire founder of the eponymous news service and a former mayor of New York City.

Courts blocking Trump’s way

In more substantive terms, Trump suffered a loss on Monday when a federal appellate court in Washington, DC struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s 90-day suspension of new rules for oil and gas well emissions developed under ex-President Barack Obama. The rules are designed to limit methane discharges that cause more global warming than carbon dioxide.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is a former Oklahoma attorney general who is considered a close ally of the oil and gas industry that is a major economic force in his home state.

The court ruled that Pruitt can seek to alter the regulations but that he could not postpone them since they are now the law. That forces Pruitt to jump through regulatory hurdles that could stymie his goals.

“The court’s ruling is yet another reminder, now in the context of environmental protection, that the federal judiciary remains a significant obstacle to the president’s desire to order immediate change,” Harvard University Environmental Law Professor Richard Lazarus.

Mayors want to meet Paris goals

Local politicians are also raising obstacles to Trump.

Late last month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan group, agreed to shift to wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric power by 2035 for 100 per cent of their local power needs.

If the cities fulfil their goal, then the US would meet 87 to 110 per cent of the country’s goals under the Paris agreement even if technically the US is no longer part of the pact, according to a Sierra Club analysis.

Companies push for climate action

The private sector is also participating.

ExxonMobil shareholders in May approved a resolution over the objections of management to force the company to report on its impact on climate change. Tech giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have pledged to power their mammoth Silicon Valley campuses using only renewable energy with achieving Paris accord goals in mind. Other more traditional companies like GE and Walmart are following suit.

Executives at the Virginia-based candy maker Mars said they take climate change seriously because most of their cocoa comes from West Africa. Droughts and civil unrest that stems from environmental problems hurts their supply chain, they said.

“I’m not aware of anyone with a sustainability program that started because there was a policy initiative,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, who oversees global sustainability at the company.

Experts said companies like Mars demonstrate the apolitical nature of climate change.

“The irony of all the president’s posturing is that on the economics of this issue, the train has already left the station,” said Brian Deese, a former environmental advisor to President Obama who is now a fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Allies like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey

Trump had allies at the G20 meeting. Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey and others have expressed scepticism towards climate change rules that might impede economic growth.

But close American allies like Canada don’t share that point of view.

“It would be great to have a clear message that everyone understands we need to be taking action on climate change, and the Paris agreement is critical to that,” said Canadian Environmental Minister Catherine McKenna.