Will Trump dump the Paris Climate agreement?
The rightwingers who were thrilled by Trump’s election are now complaining that the Trump regime may abandon one of the pr*sident’s key campaign pledges for his first 100 days – withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.
A distinguished visiting fellow and a research associate at the Heritage Foundation wrote an Op-Ed last month, arguing that sticking with the 195-nation Paris Climate pact will cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Included in their Op-Ed’s platterful of distortions, exaggerations, omissions, and outright fabrications, the pair claimed that other nations—for example, Germany—have retreated from climate-friendly changes to their energy systems because those already made have damaged their economies without providing benefits. In fact, that’s far from true. But then what can you expect from a climate science-denying foundation funded to the tune of nearly $6 million by the Koch brothers? Unfortunately, Heritage has more than just a little influence with the regime.
The question is whether countervailing forces inside the White House—which reportedly include some of Trump’s kin—will win the day over Heritage and other naysayers when the decision about the Paris agreement is announced. That is expected to happen sometime in late May before the G-7 meeting of wealthiest nations in Taormina, Sicily.
Eric Wolff, Andrew Restuccia and Josh Dawsey reported Friday that this coming week senior advisers will sit down together for the first time to see if they can resolve internal differences over the Paris pact between what the three call “the moderate and nationalist wings of the White House.” Discussions at lower staff levels have been going on for weeks:
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, senior adviser Jared Kushner and chief strategist Steve Bannon are expected to be at the table. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, but sources cautioned that the timing and number of attendees is still in flux.[…]
Bannon and Pruitt are said to be strongly opposed to remaining in the agreement, while Kushner and Tillerson are said to be in favor of staying. Cohn and McMaster have not yet staked out a position in internal discussions at the White House, but they are also expected to argue for staying in the pact. […]
A small group of White House aides have been holding meetings with fossil fuel industry officials to outline one approach: Stay in the agreement, but weaken Obama’s domestic emissions reduction target. The aides have also argued that remaining in the pact will give the U.S. leverage to win greater support for technology that will reduce emissions from the use of coal and other fossil fuels. That approach has won the endorsement of several major coal companies.
Staying in the agreement but undermining it in the way those aides propose might appeal to EPA chief Pruitt since that is exactly what is happening at the agency he has in the past said should be gotten rid of altogether. Better politically to have a mere shell than suffer the bad press that would accompany jumping ship altogether. This hollowing-out approach—being accomplished at the EPA with program rollbacks and a proposed budget cut of 31 percent—allows the regime to undercut its critics by pretending it’s engaging effectively on environment matters, including climate change. Call it termite policy.
With Steve Bannon’s influence ebbing and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arguing for sticking with the Paris agreement while retreating on efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the naysayers may lose the stay-or-go argument.
“It’s a bad deal for America,” he said. “It’s an ‘America second, third or fourth’ kind of approach.” […]
Pruitt said adhering to the global climate treaty would cost American jobs, a claim which environmentalists—and, increasingly, even fossil fuel companies—say is wrong.
One concern of Pruitt’s is that sticking with the Paris pact could make it harder for him and his allies to argue in court against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, an EPA final rule that mandates reduced emissions from electricity-generating plants. Although Trump has signed an executive order to review the CPP as the first step in dumping it altogether, getting rid of it is not something that can be done overnight because of the lengthy procedures prescribed for establishing or reversing EPA rules.
One obstacle CPP foes face is the endangerment ruling. The Bush administration came to the conclusion in December 2007 that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes endanger public welfare and must be controlled under the Clean Air Act. Also in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency the EPA not only has the authority to regulate emissions but also is required to do so under the Clean Air Act if it concludes that greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to the public. In April 2009, Obama’s first EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, did just that and issued the agency’s own endangerment finding.
Pruitt wanted to see that reversed along with the CPP, but the White House did not oblige him. That decision could make it tougher to win the lawsuit that 26 states launched against the federla government to get the CPP nixed. The suit is being carried forward mostly under the auspices of Republican attorneys general. Pruitt was originally the leader of this effort when he was AG of Oklahoma. Unless the Supreme Court decides to overturn its own 10-year-old decision in the Massachusetts case, the EPA will have to come up with an emissions reduction plan to replace the CPP. If that plan is a phantom, mere environmental fakery, litigation will almost certainly put it in court.
For now, however, implementation of the CPP is on hold even as the impacts of climate change worsen before our eyes.
As long as the United States remains a party to the Paris agreement, it has an obligation to cut its greenhouse gas emissions as well as provide financial assistance to developing nations to do the same. That fact may strengthen Pruitt’s and Bannon’s case for bailing on the agreement.
On the other hand, others on the pr*sident’s team may convince them and any fence straddlers that sticking with the Paris deal on paper, just like maintaining the EPA as an understaffed shell, will achieve the same result without the bad optics. Termites. Munching away, out of sight.
(Originally appeared at DailKos)