Climate campaigners defiant on Trump victory

10th November 2016

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Ian Borthwick

Climate experts, campaigners and scientists are collectively reeling from the election of climate change sceptic Donald Trump as the next US president.

The sector is fearful that Trump, who has said that man-made climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, will carry out his threat to remove the US from the Paris agreement. The global climate deal entered into force at the beginning of November and the latest round of UN talks on implementation began this week in Morocco.

Trump has also pledged to scrap the Clean Power Plan, a policy brought in by president Barack Obama to reduce US emissions, reinvigorate the US coal industry, forbid the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating C02 emissions and to oppose carbon pricing.

The US ratified the Paris agreement in September. In order to formally pull out, Trump would have to trigger article 28 of the agreement, which he cannot do until three years after it has come into force. It would be another year before the departure of the US took effect.

Commentators are hopeful that Trump will not renege on the deal and instead see the business opportunities from the low carbon transition.

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said that though the president-elect was a threat to climate action, the clean energy transition was now unstoppable. ‘If Trump chooses to disengage then he will hand the next industrial revolution lock, stock and barrel to China,’ he said.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change science and policy at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘Donald Trump is a businessman. The biggest leap forward we could make to address climate change is to develop the business economy that will produce energy without the carbon.

‘There are huge opportunities for this in America, for example through its [technology] leadership in the Silicon Valley, from transforming the car industry to developing cleaner energy grid and storage, bioenergy and the circular economy,’ she said.

Speaking from the US, Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute, said: ‘One of the clearest messages from the [presidential] campaign is that America must addresses inequality within our society and reshape our economy so that all people can thrive.

‘As a businessman, president-elect Trump needs to understand that investing in clean energy creates jobs and drives innovation. America has numerous opportunities to create a modern, high-efficiency economy that is suited for the 21st century.’

The global transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy is unstoppable, he added.

Campaigners have vowed a fight if Trump attempts to carry out his threats.

A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth in the US said: ‘The next four years will not be easy, but we have fought hostile administrations before. Under president George W Bush, the environmental community took the battle to the courts and Congress; we blocked attacks on the environment; we galvanised the public to take action.

‘After the more recent fights to kill the Keystone XL pipeline, ban fracking and shut down coal plants, the environmental movement is stronger than we have ever been.’

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: ‘Donald Trump is a climate menace, no doubt about it. But together we are more powerful than he is. And we need to be. We may only have a handful of years left to stop the worst effects of climate change and that makes four years of a Trump presidency a very daunting prospect.

‘The mountain we are climbing just got a whole lot steeper, and we’re going to need the right equipment and a lot more people in order to face the challenge. But it can be done,’ he said.


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