At the end of the new US President’s first working week, Paul Brannen, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East, looks at the implications for the environment and how this is going to affect Europe’s policy:
By the end of this week Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, will have begun to radically change American environmental policy, potentially destroying the collective global effort to halt the climate overheating.
He has already passed an Executive Order which advances the construction of the fiercely protested Dakota oil pipeline, with a second Order being signed regarding the Keystone XL pipeline. Both projects would represent a victory for the fossil fuel lobby.
This fits with Trump’s cabinet appointments of some notable climate change sceptics, namely Rick Perry as Energy Secretary, Scott Pruitt as Head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Rex Tillerson, the former boss of Exxon Mobil, as Secretary of State. All have softened their stance on this issue during their confirmation hearings, but overall it’s fair to say that as far as climate change is concerned this is the cabinet of doom.
And over at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the White House has ordered a freeze on the awarding of grants and contracts, with an additional move to overturn many regulations that were introduced towards the end of President Obama’s term, on such issues as air pollution and renewable fuel standards. Top this with the American media gaining sight of emails ordering an EPA communication blackout and the picture is not looking good for the environment in the USA and globally.
Consequently it’s no wonder that Greenpeace USA this week unfurled a giant banner, showing the single word “Resist,” on a crane next to the White House – good for them.
But what does this all mean for Europe, and EU environmental policies? The European Environment Agency has released a report outlining the increasing impact of climate change which describes a greater number of extreme heat events and forest fires in southern Europe, combined with a greater risk to floodplains and of storm surges in western Europe. Such weather patterns can lead to lower crop yields (think of the recent demise of the courgette due to bad weather in Spain) and damage to homes, communities and infrastructure. Policies to tackle these events, such as those agreed at the UN Paris climate deal in 2015, will still be required but will be undermined if the world’s second biggest carbon emitting nation, the USA, has decided to do nothing about it from now on.
Perhaps Europeans will see this new situation as an opportunity to once again lead the world on environmental issues and examples of this are already emerging with the European Investment Bank stating clearly that it will continue its long term investment into fighting climate change.
For us here in the North East, policy made in the USA may feel far away but if your home has been subject to flooding, the price of your weekly shop goes through the roof, or every summer sees a hose pipe ban, climate change might pose more of a threat then you think. And the USA could have a significant impact on reducing these harmful effects if it chose to.
In summary the new US administration has immediately brought in sweeping changes on a range of environmental issues and if they continue to push the falsehood that man-made climate change is a hoax then the battle against climate change could well be lost, with horrendous consequences for our children and future generations.
Donald Trump has little experience of being on the receiving end of direct campaigning and his tetchy reaction to the huge marches across the world the day after his inauguration shows how thin skinned and vulnerable to criticism he is.
Greenpeace and the wider US environmental movement have only just begun the fight back against Trump’s reckless disregard for climate science. It is now beholden on the rest of us to join with them as we collectively work to save our planet from a Trump inspired Armageddon.