January 25, 2021|
4 mins read
Credits – USA Today
As the Earth is getting dangerously hotter each year, and is on track to warm by more than 3 degrees celsius by 2100, the U.S cannot afford to ignore its role in the fight against climate catastrophe.
Afterall, the U.S is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world, making it a key player in the fight for global environmental policy and climate action. Yet over the course of Trump’s four year presidency we saw him make dangerous decisions to overturn many of the key policies which protected the environment and public health. Notably, he made plans to build infrastructure such as the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would have terrible consequences for ecosystems, including river pollution and loss of habitat. Even more worryingly, he exited the Paris Climate Agreement, seeing it as a setback to the US economy rather than an opportunity for crucial change. This meant that the U.S was no longer contributing finances to the Green Climate Fund and thereby halting any aid to other countries.
Credits – foreignpolicy.com
Not to mention Trump’s jealousy over Greta Thunberg’s popularity after he condescendingly tweeted that she had anger management issues – maybe he should have checked himself first before cyber-bullying a young woman with a whole generation of activists behind her.
During his time in office, Trump rolled back more than 100 environmental policies in some of the most critical areas of environmental protection legislation, making him one of the greatest threats to the fight against the climate crisis the world has ever seen.
This is a man who called climate change ‘a hoax’ and even suggested that scientists are ‘politically motivated’ while ludicrously describing himself as the ‘great environmentalist’. Although it is easy to laugh at his ignorance, it has nevertheless been scary and alarming to remember just how he has been able to abuse his power.
To put it into perspective here are just a few of the ways in which Trump’s four year presidency has been devastating for fighting climate breakdown. This is by no means an exhaustive list:
- Opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration.
- Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline project.
- Supporting growth of the fossil fuel industry.
- Rolled back Obama-era rules to halt methane leaks. Supported unrestricted fracking.
- Has reduced and rolled back regulations that limit coal production.
- Left Paris Agreement, rolled back Obama-era emissions rules, and didn’t factor climate change into policy decisions.
- Never announced a plan to tackle climate change.
- Undid Obama-era rules that encouraged the growth of renewable energy.
- Rescinded higher fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks.
- Wanted to ramp up nuclear energy and uranium production.
- Weakened and rolled back several regulations aimed at protecting water.
- Dismissed single-use plastic ban.
- Loss of endangered species protections under Trump Administration.
These rollbacks made by the Trump administration and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have not only had terrible consequences for the environment, but the Environmental Protection Network reported that they had “serious and measurable consequences, especially for already overburdened low-income communities and communities of color”.
In a statement written by nine conservation groups, including Alaska Wilderness League Action, Friends of the Earth and Clean Water Action, the group wrote that ‘Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history.’
From backing coal-fired power plants to opening up federal land and water for drilling, a second term in office for Trump would have been ‘game over’ for the climate.
But I think it’s time we stop giving Trump the airtime he laps up so easily and start focussing on Biden’s policies and what is to be expected.
So, what does the Biden-Harris administration mean for the future of our planet? Are we to expect lots of big promises with little real action or change? Or does this new presidency actually give us hope for a greener future?
Let’s have a look…
Promises to Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement
Biden promises to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in Office which Trump officially withdrew from in November 2020. This means that parts of the government will be able to put pressure on other countries to act, as well as ensuring a focus on more ambitious climate policy within the U.S. But it will take a bit of time for the U.S. to reestablish its role among other international climate decision-makers.
Revoke the permit authorising the Keystone XL pipeline project
Biden is set to ‘cancel’ the project on his first day in office by signing an executive order. For more than a decade, environmentalists and Indigenous groups have been fighting against the project. This decision would prohibit catastrophic destruction to wildlife, and prevent oil spillages from occurring.
Protect 30 percent of public lands and waters by 2030
Biden promises an ambitious strategy by signing an executive order to protect public lands and oceans as he plans to sign an executive order to safeguard the planet’s biodiversity and natural carbon sinks.
The Biden-Harris administration has outlined a $2 trillion climate plan as they want to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector to net zero by 2050, while generating millions of clean energy jobs in the process. Biden and Harris have also said they will stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities. However, some of these changes could take a while to be implemented as federal government laws are often taken to court by the states who are regulating the power sector.
Temporarily halt oil and gas leasing in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Biden is set to sign another executive order to delay the process of drilling in this area as far as is possibly. However to make this permanent he will have to take more formal steps.
Vehicles and Buildings
Biden plans to spend $20bn on a recovery plan for the transit industry so as to make public transport safer and more accessible.
According to leading scientists, America’s policies and actions to deal with the huge threats against environmental protection will ultimately determine if our planet has a chance of tackling climate change.
Time will tell how many of these promises are empty or unattainable, but in the meantime we can only hope that this new presidency marks an important step towards protecting our land, seas, wildlife and people in the fight for climate justice.