How a Trump Presidency Will Impact UK Climate Action

How a Trump Presidency Will Impact UK Climate Action
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With temperatures soaring above normal seasonal levels across most of America on 8 November, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump waited out the hours of nail-biting vote counting in their respective election night headquarters in midtown Manhattan, only about a mile and a half apart.

During the early hours of the UK‘s morning, the results were in and Donald Trump was announced to the world as the next president of the United States. 

The election results reverberated around the world, and with it a tsunami of questions, including: what does this mean for energy and climate change in the US and beyond?

The UK, which is still reeling from the impacts of its own divisive vote in June to leave the European Union, has long seen itself as a special partner to the US and often takes its cues from across the pond.

So, what impact might Trump’s presidency have on UK climate policy?

Paris Agreement

One place where the Trump victory will be felt particularly acutely will be in the halls of the Marrakech climate conference. Trump has long promised to pull out of the Paris climate agreement – which came into force just four days prior to the US election.

He has also said he would end all federal spending on climate change and do his best to support the coal and fracking industries.

The signal this sends not just to the UK but the world is twofold.

Firstly, that America is now a significant outlier, seeking to distance itself from the global trend towards cutting emissions and embracing clean energy technology.

Secondly, it may be that much harder to convince other nations to take climate change seriously if the US is not perceived to be a leader. And as Alden Myer, director of Strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists warned during the opening of the COP22 climate conference: “We can’t afford for Marrakech to be seen as an afterthought. Rather it must catalyse real actions and build on momentum coming out of Paris, and lay the groundwork for much more progress to be made over the next several years.”

Negotiators will now scramble to make the Paris Agreement framework as robust as possible in the face of what will be presumed to be US opposition under Trump. 

Climate Deniers

What’s more, in addition to Trump claiming climate change is a conspiracy perpetrated by China, he has tapped several climate science deniers including Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition and dirty-energy lobbyist Mike McKenna as the person in charge of the Energy Department transition.

In September Trump also said he would push to have climate change denier and fossil fuel promoter, Kathleen Hartnett White, named as head of the EPA.

And last month the Washington Post reported that Mike Catanzaro, a former senior energy staffer for Republican Party House Majority Leader John Boehner with a track record of climate change denial, will lead Trump’s energy transition team

Effectively, Trump’s win serves to bolster the Vote Leave campaigners’ calls for the UK to roll back on its efforts to tackle climate change. As many will argue: if America isn’t acting on climate change, why should the UK?

As DeSmog UK previously reported, not only is there a strong link between those who supported Brexit and climate science denial but there are also several links between top Vote Leave campaigners and American neocon climate denial groups.

Most recently, US climate denying think tanks the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heartland Institute spoke at the Conservative Party Conference and called for greater coordination between Britain and America.

Going forward, the strong distrust in scientific experts and acceptance of climate science denial seen amongst both the Trump and Brexit campaign means efforts to tackle climate change will be that much harder. And all this at a time when month after month, 2016 has broken temperature records.

Photo: Michael Vadon via Flickr | CC 2.0

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How a Trump Presidency Will Impact UK Climate Action
Kyla is a freelance writer and editor with work appearing in the New York Times, National Geographic, HuffPost, Mother Jones, and Outside. She is also a member of the Society for Environmental Journalists.

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