The Trump administration has done it again. In a latest move, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has signed a notice to start repealing the Clean Power Plan, the flagship initiative of the Obama administration; the Plan had aimed at curbing carbon emissions from US power plants, the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in that country.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based think tank, has strongly condemned the move to repeal the Plan. Blasting the decision, CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan said: “The world needs to wake up and hold the US accountable for decisions that have a global impact – and this is one such decision. We cannot and should not remain mute spectators to these actions by the Trump administration that undermine global efforts to address climate change.”
CSE researchers point out that this year, the world has suffered major impacts of a changing climate through a spate of heat waves, cyclones, floods, droughts and extreme rainfall events. The US itself has been buffeted and mauled severely by an unprecedented three hurricanes and about 76 large wildfires, and the total economic loss to the country has been estimated at US $300 billion. However, these disasters have left the Trump administration unfazed.
The Clean Power Plan and the US fossil fuel sector
The CPP aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants by 32 per cent below their 2005 emissions levels, by 2030. The Plan is seen as the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change initiative to meet the US’s modest commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce GHG emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels, by 2025.
The present US administration is leaving no stone unturned to support, protect and nourish its fossil fuel industry. The country reportedly provides a more than US $20-billion annual subsidy to the fossil fuel industry; it has proposed rules to further subsidise the coal plants.
With the latest move, Scott Pruitt has announced publicly that the “war on coal is over”, in line with Trump’s Executive Order in March 2017 on ‘Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth’ — which had called for review of all rules and cancel, revise or revoke any rule or action that can potentially burden the development of domestic energy resources. This Order, along with other elements, had called for a re-evaluation of the CPP.
The US is already the second largest coal consumer in the world after China, Its per capita coal consumption is five times higher than India’s. The US EPA decision is expected to ‘save’ 240 million tonne of coal production in the country.
Paris Agreement and after
As per the lock-in clause under the Paris Agreement, it will take three years for the US to officially quit the Agreement – this implies that the US would be participating in the UN climate negotiations scheduled to begin in Bonn, Germany, in November this year. The US has indicated that it is open to re-negotiating the Paris Agreement to secure its own interests.
“Renegotiation of the Paris Agreement to secure American interests cannot be allowed at any cost. The world needs a collective strategy to respond to the US at Bonn. We cannot allow the US to attend the UN meeting at the Bonn climate summit as if it is business-as-usual,” says Chandra Bhushan.