Clean energy revolution ‘locked in’ by business aspirations, says Obama

The former US President Barack Obama has dismissed fears that the Trump administration could scupper clean energy growth in the US, but suggested that no country could afford to "sit on the sidelines" when combatting climate change.

The 44th US President was speaking in Milan last night (9 May) at the Seeds & Chips food innovation summit. After calling on nations to “unleash” innovation to promote sustainable agriculture, Obama claimed that businesses had “locked-in” clean energy into the economy, a movement unlikely to be reversed through legislation.

“Obviously, the current administration has differences with my administration regarding energy policies,” Obama said. “It’s part of what happens in democracy. The good news is, the private sector has already made the decision that our future is in clean energy, investments are going into clean energy. Those things are locked in now into the economy.

“Because of the current debates taking place in Washington, some things might move more slowly, but I’m confident that the US will move in the right direction…History never moves in a straight line, but over time it moves in the direction of justice.”

The Trump administration has announced that it will delay a decision on a potential withdrawal from the Paris Agreement until after the G7 summit later this month. Trump had promised withdrawal as part of his campaign, also vowing to overhaul “draconian climate rules” set by the Obama administration.

Obama argued that no country “large or small, rich or poor, would be immune from the impacts of climate change”, and warned that reaching that agreed commitments of the Paris Agreement, which currently fall short of the 1.5C objective, would require “continued leadership” from all nations.

Ingrained economics

Since entering office Trump has signed 77 executive actions, many of which contrast or outright reverse climate legislation introduced by Obama.

Specifically, Trump has agreed to review standards to increase fuel economy levels to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, which were agreed by automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration in 2011.

Since that announcement, the US’s largest car market California, voted to reaffirm fuel economy standards with an option to create new proposals after 2025. This, Obama noted, meant that no automaker could afford to produce a vehicle that failed to comply with efficiency standards in the area.

Obama claimed that low-carbon business models made sense “from an economic point of view”, as highlighted by the US reducing emissions while growing its economy. Obama, who will spend the next decade establishing the Obama Presidential Centre to foster the next generation of activism leadership, told companies that even if they didn’t care about the environment, there customers would.

“There should be no company on earth that wants to waste energy, because energy costs money. Energy efficiency will reflect itself in profits,” Obama added. “If we seize the future there is nothing we cannot do. I don’t believe this planet is condemned to ever-rising temperatures, I believe that these problems were caused by man and they can be solved by man.”

Matt Mace

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