US climate action under siege ahead of Trump meeting with May

As Theresa May prepares to become the first world leader to meet officially with Donald Trump on Thursday (27 January), a flurry of reports have suggested that the US president is set to diminish the country's climate change commitments.

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order that would reduce the US’ role in multilateral treaties, the New York Times has claimed. According to its sources, the order will call for a review of all multilateral treaties with more than one other nation that are not “directly related to national security, extradition or international trade”.

It remains unclear exactly which treaties fall outside these restrictions, but the New York Times suggests that the now-ratified Paris Agreement could be one of the accords to come under review. Trump has previously set out his intentions to cancel the Agreement, although in November he said he now had an “open mind” on the matter.

In the light of this speculation, the World Resources Institute’s David Waskow and Andrew Light have published an op-ed on the diplomatic and economic isolation the US would face if it pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

The experts’ op-ed reads: If the United States pulls out of the Paris Agreement or ceases its pursuit of measures to reduce emissions at home, it will further isolate itself from the world by making this problem worse rather than better.

“America cannot afford to be a climate loner, nor can the world afford for it to become one,” it added. “If President Trump is to live up to his promise to be a president for all Americans, then he will honour U.S. climate commitments in the name of security and prosperity.”

EPA uncertainty

These latest developments follow reports earlier in the week that Trump has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove the climate change page from its website. EPA employees told Reuters on Tuesday that the Trump administration had contacted the EPA communications team about the removal of the page, which contains links to scientific global warming research and detailed emissions data.

Sources suggested that the climate change page could be removed as early as Wednesday, but it appears the Trump administration has backed away from these plans. Employees from more than a dozen US Government agencies have since established a network of unofficial “rogue” Twitter feeds in defiance of Trump’s belligerent rhetoric towards climate issues.

The future of the EPA remains uncertain; fronted by climate-sceptic Scott Pruitt, who wants to scrap the clean power programme which underpins the US’ international pledge to curb emissions, the department is thought to be facing deep environmental regulation cutbacks in the upcoming months.

‘Silence is not acceptable’

This batch of reports arrive on the eve of May’s visit to the White House. The Prime Minister has so far refused to confirm whether she will address Trump on his climate-scepticism, as senior figures -including former Labour leader Ed Miliband – implore her to “reassure” the President that climate change is “not a hoax invented by the Chinese”.

Without direct assurance that the issue would be raised in the meeting, May said: “I hope he recognises the commitment that this Government has shown to this issue of climate change with the legislation that we’ve put through and the changes that we have brought about in terms of the energy sector.”

Indeed, the meeting between May and Trump provides a key opportunity for the PM to show international leadership on the issue. Commenting on the meeting, Friends of the Earth’s  UK chief executive Craig Bennett. “It will be an appalling betrayal of the UK’s science, values and global responsibility if May fails to challenge Trump’s climate-wrecking agenda.

“Trump’s war on our environment has already begun. Silence is not acceptable – it will simply legitimise and normalise the new president’s climate denial. Trump must be warned that the US may become a global pariah if it abandons action act on climate change – the greatest threat to children alive today.”

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie