Win or lose, dominating view of US Republicans is not good for climate policies

This week, EiD has two posts related to the views of Republicans and aspects of sustainable energy and climate policies. Andrew Warren, a regular contributor to EiD, and chair of the British Energy Efficiency Federation, reflects in a BusinessGreen article on worrying developments in the US


Donald Trump’s campaign may be struggling, but his climate scepticism thrives in Republican circles

There will be very few Business Green readers who, at any rate professionally speaking, can contemplate the concept of Donald Trump becoming the next American President with any equanimity. Apart from threatening to become the only head of government anywhere in the world who deliberately denies the scientific evidence regarding the threat of climate change, Trump now so regularly gives speeches condemning environmentally-oriented initiatives as “un American” as to make it absolutely plain how contemptuous he would seek to be as President of anything that smacked of greenery.

However, if the opinion polls prove to be accurate as they are currently consistent, by early November the dangers that Trump himself represents   should disappear: he will have been roundly defeated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Thus the threat to withdraw any involvement with the climate change agreement so painstakingly negotiated in Paris last December will disappear. As presumably will any suggestion of removing all US funding for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

So we shall all be able to breathe a deep sigh of relief, and return to the grown-up reality of trying to combat the threat of climate change? I am afraid not.

Because all of these idiocies that Trump is enunciating now are drawn from the official Republican Party policy platform. And much more besides.

When the Republicans met in Ohio this summer to endorse Trump as their presidential candidate, they also formally adopted a whole set of energy and environment policies, intended over the next four years to reverse almost every progressive initiatives now in place.

Euphemistically called “Environmental Progress: A New Era in Energy”, this 2,400 word manifesto sets out to deregulate pollution, halt any action to prevent climate change, and overtly expand fossil fuel consumption.

Just to give a few choice examples:

*Abandon the Clean Power Plan, intended to reduce the amount of coal-fired electricity. This is dismissed as “the President’s war on coal”, which is described as “an abundant, clean (sic), affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.”

*Build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Obama has vetoed. This would ensure extra tar –sands oil, the most polluting and dirtiest kind of oil. And more, similar, schemes are promised.

*All Federal fracking regulations are to be scrapped.

*Any form of carbon pricing or taxation is to be opposed.

*Energy efficiency measures are to be blocked as “energy rationing”

*Export terminals for liquefied natural gas will be expedited.

*The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – despite being the creation of an earlier Republican President, Richard Nixon- is to cease its present function as a nationwide creator of safe standards, a role now to become exclusive to the Governors of each individual State. Instead it will become “an independent bipartisan commission” which will adhere to “structural safeguards against politicised science”- in other words, any scientific findings that don’t accord with Republican dogma.

It almost goes without saying that the EPA would also be “forbidden to regulate carbon dioxide emissions”. Or that the document concludes by reminding us that the Republican Party “rejects the agenda of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.”

Whilst they may not win the Presidency, the Republican Party will still control much of the Federal Government purse strings, because it has a well nigh unassailable majority in the US Congress.

Even more pertinently, the Democrats currently have incumbents in only eighteen of the Governor’s offices in each of the fifty states. There are far more officials elected under the Republican banner than the Democrat banner.

Republicans pushing to implement any or all of these measures between now and 2020 will be able to claim their actions are smack in accordance with official party policy.

And like it or not this is the political party with which British Conservative Members of Parliament traditionally evince most affinity. Remember too that Populus poll of MPs taken just before the last election, which revealed that 1 in 5 Conservative backbench MPs readily agreed that “man-made climate change is entirely environmentalist propaganda for which there is little evidence”.

Even if Donald Trump’s personal electoral chances may be being written off by every political pundit, that sadly doesn’t mean all of his crazy ideas will vanish too. There will be too many others wielding an ostensible mandate to pursue them. And remember too how every political pundit was writing off the electoral chances of Brexit too…

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