As COP23 begins, there is a large (orange) elephant in the room. The Trump Administration has made the US the only country that has fully rebuffed the spirit of Paris — not only with threats of withdrawal but also renewed pledges to ramp up extraction of fossil fuels, and that’s not all. While the Administration is abandoning all sense of reason to eliminate climate policy (despite it being unclear whether those efforts will be successful), the resistance is active and fighting back, making positive progress well beyond the reach of the Trump Administration.
ECO’s here to help fill in the gaps and let you in on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the US climate scene.
First, the bad and the ugly: the Trump Administration’s endless attacks on efforts to address climate change. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), led by fossil fuel shill Scott Pruitt, has proposed rescinding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule aimed at drastically cutting carbon emissions from power plants, and the foundation of the US’s NDC.
There are a slew of other terrible things his administration has acted on. Reopening vehicle emission standards for review with the aim of weakening them? Check. Halting a review of public land coal mining royalties and inclusion of climate change into reviews of those projects? You’d better believe it. Dismissing EPA science advisors and replacing them with fossil-fuel insiders, and appointing similar fossil-fuel representatives to key environmental posts in the Trump Administration? They sure are trying. Not even direct attacks on citizens’ homes are out of the question. Just before Hurricane Harvey dumped 50 inches (127 cm) of rain on Houston, the Administration revoked federal flood standard requirements to take into account climate-related sea level rise. Nor are other countries exempt, with the administration turning its back on the most vulnerable by withholding climate finance, and changing guidance for the US to support fossil fuel projects by Multilateral Development Banks.
But all is not lost: there is good. Trump doesn’t speak for most Americans. Not the cities and states that they live in, not the businesses they work for, nor the universities they attend. More than 2,500 states, cities, companies and investors, and universities, representing over 130 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the US economy said that they are “still in” and committed to meeting the US’s NDC despite the Trump Administration. Fifteen states and Puerto Rico are on track to meet the US NDC goals within their own jurisdictions.
Additionally, it’s not quite as easy to roll back environmental regulations as the Administration wants to believe. Well-established US law requires greenhouse gases be regulated for the public’s health and welfare. Even while the Administration is trying to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, many states are already on pace to meet the 2030 targets due to economic forces, successful campaigns, and grassroots organizing. So despite their climate denial and consistent attempts, the Administration has accomplished little.
But perhaps what is most important to know is that Americans aren’t letting the Trump Administration get away with this. Americans are acting as agents of positive change, getting 200,000 people to march in Washington DC this year, and fighting against every pipeline under the wisdom of Native Americans whose land and heritage must be protected from fossil fuel extraction. Scientists emerged from their labs and research stations to march through the rain in the March for Science to have their voices heard in Washington.
These Americans are here in Bonn, too. You’ll find them advocating for Parties to look beyond this administration and take on ambitious climate action and telling their stories as part of the “US People’s Delegation.” They’ll continue to hold this Administration accountable here in Bonn and at home by ensuring our commitments under Paris are honoured and preserve a safe future for the global community.