US Presidential race and the global climate agenda: What’s at stake?

New research has found that a victory for Donald Trump in the next US election would all but extinguish hopes of restraining global warming below 1.5C. edie explores what this means for the global climate agenda, and why businesses need to be resolute in efforts to deliver climate action.

US Presidential race and the global climate agenda: What’s at stake?

In 2022, the Biden administration introduced a $369bn investment in green technology as a component of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a strategic framework channelling funds into green technology via grants, credits and tax incentives.

This legislation mandates that green technology production and assembly in the US be eligible for tax credits, with the aim of strengthening domestic manufacturing capacity and resilience to supply chain disruptions.

Johnson Control’s vice president and chief sustainability officer Katie McGinty, who previously chaired the White House Council on Environmental Quality, tells edie that the effects of the IRA are only beginning to manifest in the industry sector.

She says: “Two years after the law was passed, now the implementing regulations are all in place and the financial incentives are starting to flow, and so you’re seeing a rapid acceleration of heat pump and renewable energy adoption.”

The IRA, envied by corporates in other nations in how it has enabled scaled-up investments in climate solutions, is the topic of a political back-and-forth in the US as the country heads into the Presidential Elections, Indeed, many nations are wondering what the IRA, which is focused on reshoring manufacturing and energy, could potentially look like under Donald Trump.

Regardless of the political back and forth, McGinty emphasises the importance of dispelling the misconception that climate action and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive. She argues that climate action can deliver tangible benefits, such as job creation, capital preservation and gaining a competitive edge.

She says: “The current state of affairs emphasises, more than I think many people would like, the negative and the decisive. We have not only an opportunity but a responsibility to bring the benefits of climate action to spotlight.

“The truth is that the way you protect your pockets is by protecting the planet. Don’t be left behind.”

Fading fortunes of climate denial in America

A second Trump term is anticipated to undermine clean energy progress, potentially ushering in a series of policies aimed at expanding oil, coal and gas development, as part of his ‘drill, baby, drill’ pledge.

recent analysis from Carbon Brief has revealed that if Trump wins the November presidential election, the US could emit an additional four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 compared to President Joe Biden’s proposed plans.

This surge in emissions, equivalent to the emissions savings from clean technologies deployed worldwide over the past five years, would result in global climate damages exceeding $900bn, according to current US government assessments.

Additionally, a second Trump term would likely result in the US falling short of its Paris Agreement targets, with emissions only projected to decrease by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, significantly below the 50-52% reduction goal set by the Biden administration. In 2020, Trump officially pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement, marking the nation as the first to do so globally, though Biden swiftly reversed this decision upon taking office.

This prediction stems from the likelihood of Trump dismantling the IRA, which aims to drive clean industrial growth, should he return to office. Trump has previously stated his intention to revoke the agreement if he defeats Biden in the November elections.

Research shows that Trump, known for his climate denial stance, holds ‘the strongest’ influence within the climate denial community on social media platforms such as X, where he is followed by conservative media and right-wing activists.

Trump’s rationale for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement centred on perceived unfairness to the US, arguing that it allowed countries like India and China to continue fossil fuel usage while imposing restrictions on American carbon emissions.

While around 15% of Americans maintain scepticism about climate change, a recent CNN poll discovered that almost all Democrats are advocating for the US to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by half by 2030, with 76% of independents and half of Republicans in agreement.

The impact of a Trump-win on global climate agenda

According to Carbon Brief’s analysis, a victory for Donald Trump in the upcoming US election could have significant implications for global climate goals.

If Trump secures a second term, there is the expectation of either a full or partial repeal of the IRA and rollbacks of Biden’s climate regulations, including those concerning power plants, fossil fuel vehicles and methane emissions.

Carbon Brief’s “Trump” scenario projects that such actions could result in a cumulative increase of 4 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in US emissions by 2030. Moreover, without further policy changes, this trajectory could continue to rise, potentially reaching alarming levels of 15 billion tonnes by 2040 and 27 billion tonnes by 2050.

These increases would not only endanger US climate targets but also pose a significant threat to global climate objectives.

Carbon Brief wrote: “The corollary of this is that if the US – the world’s second-largest emitter – misses its 2030 target by a wide margin, then it would be likely to end any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5C.”

This week, former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed her concerns on platform X regarding the findings of the Carbon Brief analysis, warning that a victory for Trump would cost the global climate agenda “everything”.

As per Forbes, current indications suggest that Biden is leading in early polls ahead of the November elections, surpassing Trump.

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