Republicans to challenge Trump over climate change

As US President Donald Trump prepares to rollback emissions standards for vehicles and slash the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 17 Republican members of the House of Representatives have called for an economic policy that combats climate change.

Republican members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of US Congress that composes national legislation, have introduced the “Republican Climate Resolution” to promote Congress as a “steward of [the] environment” and “responsibly plan for all market factors” including climate change.

“If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest, harming productivity in key economic sectors such as construction, agriculture, and tourism, saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens, and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets that will further add to the long-term fiscal challenges that we face as a Nation,” the statement reads.

“Any efforts to mitigate the risks of, prepare for, or otherwise address our changing climate and its effects should not constrain the US economy, especially in regards to global competitiveness.”

House of Representatives members are elected to a two-year term, each serving for specific congressional districts by introducing bills that serve these communities. The 17 Republican members are unlikely to make much progress amongst the 435 voting members, but the areas they represent may choose to push the agenda.

The resolution has been fronted by Republican members Elise Stefanik of New York, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Ryan Costello, who represents Pennsylvania. Interestingly, climate change and low-carbon markets are having huge impacts in these areas.

Backed by a $5bn clean energy fund, New York has recorded a 800% increase in solar in the last five years. Florida is under threat from rising sea levels and ocean acidification, while Pennsylvania has laws in place that provides greater protection for the state’s waterways than the Clean Water Act, which Trump is hoping to strip-back.

Since Trump was elected, the Mayors of 35 US cities have vowed to accelerate efforts towards a low-carbon transition. The new statement could provide the framework for a more pressing bill to be introduced to Congress later down the line.

The current statement has attempted to appeal to Trump’s ideologies to create an indigenous workforce and a thriving economy. At the bottom of the resolution the members note that “American ingenuity, innovation and exceptionalism” can all be used to support an economically viable climate mitigation strategy that encompasses the private sector.

EPA cuts

In the current state-of-play, it would appear unlikely that the statement will impact Trump’s immediate decisions. Budget documents released today (16 March) have revealed that the Trump administration is proposing a 31% cut to the EPA’s budget.

The White House’s proposed 2018 budget would remove 3,200 EPA employees, 19% of the current workforce, and eliminate funding for former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Core legislation aimed at protecting air and water quality would also be slashed under the proposals, as Trump aims to remove legislation that he believes is hindering US businesses in the fossil fuel industry.

It seems that the Trump administration will also move to reduce emission levels legislation for US automakers, after a letter, sent last month, from the chief executives from 18 major car manufacturers called on Trump to review fuel efficiency standards.

Standards to increase fuel economy levels to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 were agreed by automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration in 2011. But chief executives from the likes of General MotorsFord and Fiat Chrysler cited potential cost increases for consumers and lower production levels as concerns.

Now, the Guardian is reporting that Trump has commenced the scale-back of standards, after meeting with automakers in Detroit, Michigan. Trump will now instruct the EPA to review fuel standards and establish new fuel economy levels.

Matt Mace

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