MOSCOW (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko – When the US citizens will go to polls on November 8 to elect their next president, they will face a choice between one candidate who has debunked climate science and one with an ambitious climate agenda.
And the question any environmentally-concerned US voter will probably bear in mind on Election Day is whether the next US president will build on the climate policies of outgoing Barack Obama or abolish them.
Combating climate change has been a “pet project” of President Obama; he wanted to be remembered for it. During eight years in office, he has had numerous environmental initiatives, both implemented and not. Obama invested in renewables throughout his entire presidency.
In August 2015, Obama unveiled the Clean Power Plan, the first national carbon pollution standards for power plants in the US history. In November 2015, the US president banned the construction of 1,179-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline that was expected to run from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. Finally, on October 5, 2016, Obama formally ratified the Paris climate deal, capping his presidency-long environmental legacy.
With the elections around the corner, the positions and policy proposals of the candidates, especially since they are a world apart from each other, are in the spotlight.
Hoax or Science?
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is committed to “finish what Obama started,” while Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to “revoke everything Obama ever did.”
Trump, a successful businessman himself, says he is “not a big believer in manmade climate change.” In 2012, long before his election campaign, he even said that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
And although Trump later withdrew the statement, it could not but infuriate environmentalists in the United States.
“Donald Trump continues to ignore the climate crisis. He has called climate change a Chinese hoax. That’s about as well elaborated and concise a plan as you can get, ignore the problem,” Director of climate program in Friends of the Earth US Ben Schreiber told Sputnik.
The Republican nominee believes that Obama gave too much priority to combating global warming and promises to protect businesses that can suffer from climate change policies (primarily fossil fuel producers – oil and gas corporations).
Clinton, in contrast, believes that climate change is scientifically proven. “I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real,” she said in July 2016. She is committed to continue Obama’s efforts and push forward Paris agreement, bringing it to the next step. Clinton believes that the United States can become a 21st century “clean energy superpower” and wants to pressurize India and China to cut emissions.
As for businesses, she wants to increase regulations on gas industry and to cut oil consumption. Her claims that fossil fuels must be phased out worry oil and gas companies.
New Jobs or New Standards?
The Clean Power Plan, initiated by Obama, has an aim to cut power plants’ carbon emission “by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.” The standards are expected to be quite cost efficient since they would lead “to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030.” By the time the plan had been adopted in 2015, carbon pollution had already plummeted 15 percent in 2005-level emissions. Therefore, it aims to spread that additional 15 percent within more than a decade.
Trump wants to eliminate the plan, which is expected to cost $7.2 billion a year as “needless,” “job-killing” and expensive.
Clinton, on the contrary, supports the plan, describing it as “a significant step forward in meeting the urgent threat of climate change.” She even claims to go further in implementing the standards as they “set the floor, not the ceiling.”
Nevertheless, environmentalists fear that in case of victory, her proposals may turn out to be just PR statements rather than real intentions.
“She has a lot of good proposals about how to expand access to renewable energy and defend the Clean Power Plan, which is addressing the pollution from coal fired power plants, but her plans aren’t nearly ambitious enough,” spokesperson for 350 Action, an international NGO, Jamie Henn told Sputnik.
“We know from her leaked speeches that in back-rooms Clinton is promising that she’ll defend fracking and pledging that she won’t use her executive powers to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We’re going to need to fight her hard on that,” he continued.
Paris Deal or More to Drill?
Obama ratified the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a landmark deal intended to limit global average temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and reduce countries’ emissions of pollutants that contribute to planetary warming, without Senate’s approval, leaving a backdoor for potential legal battles. House of Representatives Speaker Republican Paul Ryan called it “disastrous for the American economy.”
Trump is an outspoken opponent of the deal both on constitutional and conceptual grounds. He claims that Obama “entered the United States into the Paris Climate Accords — unilaterally, and without the permission of Congress,” and believes that the deal “has denied millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet.” He promises to scrap the agreement in his first 100 days in the office.
“The whole world should be concerned that Donald Trump would undermine the Paris Agreement. The agreement in Paris is inadequate for the problem and weak US commitments are a big reason for that. We need the next President to make stronger commitments, not take us in the wrong direction,” Friends of the Earth’s Ben Schreiber told Sputnik.
Clinton pledged to follow Obama on the Paris deal, seeing it as “a historic step forward in meeting one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century — the global crisis of climate change.”
She intends to continue the work that she started “with President Obama to bring China and India to the table for the very first time, to get a commitment out of them that they would begin to address their own greenhouse gas emissions.” During her July 2016 speech accepting the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Clinton said she is “proud that we shaped a global climate agreement” and called the next US mission “to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves.”
The Paris climate deal, which calls for a rapid global transition to clean energy, quashes current plans of the fossil fuel industry for more drilling, which is yet another reason for Republican nominee Trump to get rid of the agreement as quickly as possible, should he be elected next US president.
Trump’s approach to drilling was described by Ben Schreiber of Friends of the Earth as “return to the drill, baby, drill of the Bush years.” GOP nominee wants “to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies” as “these technologies create millions of jobs.” He also proposed lifting existing moratoriums on oil and gas production on federal lands.
Clinton meanwhile opposes drilling in the US Arctic and says she is “very skeptical” of the need for energy production off the coast. However, both publically and privately, she supports fracking for natural gas which she sees playing an “important role in the transition to a clean energy economy.”
PR Stunt or Real Intentions?
Trump called his climate change plan An America First Energy Plan which reflects the main idea that he is more about jobs, Big Oil protection and deregulation rather than environmental issues.
The plan has the first 100-day agenda which includes saving coal industry “threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda,” revoking policies that impose restrictions on new drilling technologies as they “create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before,” scrapping current regulations that are “outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest” and only invoke new regulations if they are “good for the American worker.”
Clinton’s climate change plan on the contrary is about additional spending, investment and exerting pressure on fossil energy companies.
The Democratic nominee wants to invest billions in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development “to make the US economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers.” She seeks to impose new regulations on the fossil fuel production to “ensure safe and responsible energy production.” Her plan will be partially funded by “cutting tax subsidies oil and gas companies have enjoyed for too long.”
Although the Democratic nominee’s looks obviously much more favorable for those fighting to protect the Earth from man-made damage, some environmentalists are still cautious.
Both 350 Action’s Jamie Henn and US Friends of the Earth’s Ben Schreiber believe that “she is not nearly ambitious enough.”
“Clinton has a detailed climate plan up on her website and a team of advisors who are armed with endless policy proposals. Clintonites are by definition detail oriented people. The problem is, they also are centrists who are unwilling to take political risks unless they’re forced too. With enough pressure, I fully believe Clinton could do the right thing on climate. It’s our job to make her,” Henn said.
The US presidential election will be held on November 8. So far, Trump leads Clinton by 1 point, according to ABC News/Washington Post poll as of November 1.
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