This article is written by Remi Desaunois.
On March 16th, the White House released a ‘’Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again’’. The Administration will release its full budget in May, which will then need to be adopted by the Congress. So far, this document is just a political statement that outlines the US government’s concerns.
Climate change is not among the priorities of the White House, which is something we could already expect after the previous declarations held by the Trump candidate, as well as with the nominations of the climate skeptic, Scott Pruitt at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson’s as the Secretary of State, who will also serve as the chief climate negotiator.
The budget proposal published by the White House reinforces security and military budgets while proposing cuts on several other departments. Among them the EPA suffers the sharpest ones.
It is proposed to cut the budget of the EPA by the 31% and to end several projects that were launched under the Obama administration. The budget proposes to end funding for international climate change programs, climate change research and The Clean Power Plant, program meant to fight climate change proposed by President Obama.
This plan consisted in a set of rules regulating energy plants powered by fossil fuels, these rules set limits on CO2 emissions by power plants. It was adopted by the Obama administration and used during the Paris Agreement negotiations to show U.S commitment in tackling climate change.
Also, directly involved in environmental concerns, the agriculture and energy department are targeted by these cuts, with a 21% potential cut for the Agriculture Department and a proposition to eliminate the Clean Water Project, a rural water and wastewater loan project.
The proposed budget would also affect the Energy Department with a 5.6%, potential cut. Yet, it increases spending on National Nuclear Security.
After the first weeks of the new Presidency we have seen growing concerns in the press regarding to the growing influence of the fossil fuels industry in the Trump Administration. Eventually, on March 28th, President Trump signed an executive order “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”, aiming to rewrite rules curbing carbon emission, by lifting the ban on federal leasing for coal production as well as lifting restrictions on production of oil, natural gas, clean coal and shale energy. This order will also initiate an immediate reevaluation of the Clean Power Plant program. The White House also announced that President Donald Trump would decide by May on continuing U.S participation in the landmark Paris Agreement.
As mentioned before, even though this ‘’budget blueprint’’ itself does not have any legal value, it is a clear statement of what the White House priorities will be. But, the signature of the executive order “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” is more concerning, as it sends a very bad signal a few months before the Bonn Intersessions, where will be assessed evolution since the Paris Agreement.
The U.S government has clearly shifted toward nuclear power and fossil fuels, which might put Obama’s administration’s work to waste. However, there is undeniably a global shift towards clean and renewable energies today. In addition, U.S electric power sector is in the midst of a significant transition. Since the US president’s mandate is only 4 years long and investors tend to see their interest on the long term, it is likely Trump’s administration won’t be able to undermine this dynamic.
Obviously, the U.S won’t be a leader on Climate Change under the Trump administration. The question is whether it could or not endanger the Paris Agreement. Regarding to international climate negotiations, countries that wish to escape from their obligations will probably invoke the fact that the world’s biggest (or second, depending on the bias) economy isn’t contributing.
In reaction to Trump’s announcements European Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, tweeted “others may roll back, but EU and China will forge ahead with the #ParisAgreement and the clean energy transition ». If the US fails to accomplish its climate targets, achieving those set by the Paris Agreement would be close to impossible. However, let’s keep in mind that an executive order can not by itself change a final regulation and most importantly that many people are willing to continue the fight against climate change.