Renewable Matter # 13 / November-December

Trump Warms up the Climate

by Emanuele Bompan

Soon the least green president of all times will take office in the White House. A shrewd communicator but with an unclear line. First, he states he does not believe in climate change and that he wants to restart all coalmines. He also affirms to be open to consider any possibility. In the meantime, environmentalists are getting ready.

 

 

In an interview with The New York Times on 22nd November, Donald Trump declared, “Climate is a topic that I keep an eye on. I am open to any possibility. I imagine there is a link between climate change and man. I certainly am worried, but about how much it will cost our companies.” Extremely artful in recanting his own statements, ready to dismiss the Paris Agreement on climate change and to relaunch coal, it is difficult to determine what stance the newly elected president will take after his installation in office. Renewable Matter has gathered the first reactions of stakeholders and environmentalists on Trump’s statements.

At the recent Marrakech Climate Change Conference, the 22nd contractual session for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, Trump was the unshakable dinner guest upsetting the order of things and seriously jeopardizing the most ambitious future plan to stop global warming. His threat to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement disheartened delegates and environmentalists. 

But the real question is: Can Trump really do that? “The president,” explains David Victor from the University of California to Science, “could ask to pull out from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” the UN convention governing the implementation of negotiations and the agreement. While according to Michael Oppenheimer from Princeton University, “All Trump needs to do is not to respect agreed commitments and to stop the Obama administration’s global support.”

 

Europe and China vs. USA

In Europe, the newly elected President’s statements have been strongly criticized by both ministers and heads of state. Trump’s half backward step on 22nd November offering a glimmer of hope did not change things. Europe’s hard, albeit weak, reaction was to be expected, even China made its voice heard against the newly elected President stating that it intends to carry on with decarbonisation. “By taking a look at the history of climate change negotiations, we can see that they started with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change supported by republicans during the Reagan and the Bush Senior administrations,” stated Liu Zhenmin, China’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. “We hope that America will continue to play a leading role in the fight against climate change since the population is worried that what happened with the Kyoto Protocol, never ratified by the USA, could repeat itself.”

 

Environmentalists’ Mobilization

While the diplomatic world waits for his installation in office to better understand Trump’s presidency position, the American environmentalist scene has not wasted a single second to reorganize itself. And to start a long opposition to the man with the orange mane. From comedian John Oliver’s appeal to financially support the Natural Resources Defense Council (one of the leading American green organizations) to the flood of donations to Earth Justice (non-profit environmental law organization) to take to court any possible counterattack against the new administration. And finally, 9,000 new supporters who joined in a matter of a few days the Sierra Club, and the great global campaigns been prepared by 350.org, the online movement created by Bill McKibben and ready to fight “the most important battle of all.” 

 


Natural Resources Defense Council, www.nrdc.org

 


Earth Justice, earthjustice.org

 


Sierra Club, www.sierraclub.org

 


350.org, https://350.org

 

“All it takes for Trump to stop the Paris Agreement is to do nothing, making sure at the same time that federal agencies quickly approve fossil fuel companies’ applications,” McKibben explains.

“Of course, in the next four years we will not just defend ourselves, licking our wounds,” declared Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. “If Trump does not reconsider his stance on climate, he will incur great masses of citizens’ protest who will fight him in courts, in Congress and in the streets. If civil society and the business world accept the fact that the new president does not listen to the voice of science, the new President could thwart current positions,” continues McKibben who for years worked putting pressure on the White House and managed to stop the Keystone pipeline megaproject.

According to Richard Heinberg, fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, there is a dual strategy to slow down Donald Trump’s actions. “On the one hand, to support through Democrats in Congress press and social media communication actions and protests. I think that in the next four years there will be great mobilization, and not only on environmental issues.” But what Richard Heinberg is most interested in is grass-root action, action from cities and communities. “The opposition will have to organize itself at local level,” Richard Heinberg explains in his office in Santa Rosa, California. “Many cities have demonstrated that they can quickly move to post-carbon, much faster than at federal level. This effort must now intensify. Urban areas are governed by democrats and this could help. Moreover, republicans are traditionally against federal interference at local level.” 

 


Post Carbon Institute, www.postcarbon.org

 

Green Businesses

Businesses are also reacting. By the end of November, around 400 companies, some of them featuring in the Fortune 500 list, sent a communication to the White House asking not to stop funds supporting the transition towards a low emission economy. “If the creation of a low carbon economy fails, we will put at risk the prosperity of our country,” the letter reads, published on lowcarbonusa.org. The petition was signed by colossuses such as DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hilton, HP Inc., Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L’Oreal Usa, Nike, Mars Incorporated, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, VF Corporation, and Unilever. We are not talking about minor players in the global economic panorama. Their promise is to invest millions of dollars to lobby in Washington.

“It is crucial for the business community to show its commitment to stop climate change,” stated Barry Parkin, Mars Incorporated Sustainability Manager. “It is a crucial moment in the economic and political history and we must stand united to solve this century’s challenge for the planet.”

 


Low Carbon Usa, www.lowcarbonusa.org

 

Circular Economy

Considering that Donald Trump is a pragmatic businessman, with a strong protectionist disposition, he could be interested in supporting the introduction of circular economy models anyway. A topic to be presented as a new strategy to his voters, supporting big multinationals active in this sector in order to make their business more resilient and sustainable. After all, the circular economy has been discussed even by the US Chamber of Commerce, traditionally conservative and very close to the new administration.

“Talking about climate change and resource shortage has a stronger political connotation in the USA than in Europe,” explains Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future, a non-profit environmental consultancy group. “For businesses wishing to venture into potentially pernicious political issues, the circular economy is neutral, thus reassuring. Moreover it is characterized by a clear business model: if you reuse matter, reduce waste, enhance its useful value, it will help you save. Nobody can deny it. So even with a not-so-climate-friendly administration, the American business world could make room to adopt circular economy models in big companies and corporations, even with the government’s support, if they find the strength to lobby in this direction while some will tirelessly defend EPA regulations and the climate agreement.”

 

Forum for the Future, www.forumforthefuture.org