Donald Trump's election to the U.S. presidency throws a wrench, and may even reverse the course, of U.S. environmental, climate change and energy policy, and that's not the half of it.
Trump's surprise election victory occurred as national representatives from countries party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are meeting in Marrakech to hammer out the details of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which just went into force Nov. 4.
The UNFCCC has been signed by all 197 UN member nations, as well as the European Union (EU), State of Palestine, Niue and Cook Islands. A voluntary, non-binding international agreement, 103 UNFCCC signatory governments had ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement as of Nov. 9 morning. That includes the U.S., but only because the Obama administration was able to draft the agreement in terms that have enabled him to bypass a Senate vote. President-elect Trump has said he will abandon the agreement, which throws a rather large wrench in the global drive to mitigate and adapt to the numerous and profound effects of a rapidly warming climate.
Where to from here?
A Nov. 9 mass email by Friends of the Earth typifies expectations of things to come, at least on the part of environmental NGOs. "It’s clear that President Trump will be the greatest threat to the environment in living memory. He’ll fuel climate chaos by digging up even more dirty fossil fuels. He’ll 'cancel' the Paris climate agreement. And he’ll undo President Obama’s Clean Power Plan – all while increasing giveaways to Big Oil and Big Ag," the environmental NGO wrote.
Among other things, Friends of the Earth promised to lobby Democratic members of Congress to make use of the power of the filibuster. "We’ll push them to use it to stop dangerous bills from making it to Trump’s desk. And we’ll turn up the heat on Congress to reject the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) international free trade agreement.
"We’re also going to take the fight outside Washington," the environmental NGO promised. "For the next four years, we’ll work to pass state laws to protect our planet. And we’ll push companies like Kroger and Olive Garden to help end destructive farming practices."
Delivering on campaign promises
There's only so much even a U.S. president, with or without the support of Congress, can do given the division of U.S. governance between state and federal levels and the scope, scale, and nature of the U.S. economy and society.
Trump rode the rising wave of middle-class dissatisfaction with the federal government all the way into the White House. Rather than building walls to stop immigrants from entering and working in the U.S., he should promote a fair, equitable means of enabling them to do so. After all, the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, a heritage commemorated on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and one we can, and should, continue to be proud of.
If the President-elect genuinely intends to follow through on his campaign promises to restore the U.S. industrial base, boost job creation and prosperity for all, we humbly suggest that he look to the future rather than pandering to the vested interests that represent an industrial era, technology and ideas of government that no longer exist or continue to diminish.
Building on President Obama's legacy of supporting and stimulating development and deployment of renewable energy and clean technology should loom large in this regard, as should the Obama's administration embrace of public-private partnerships that promote inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable economic development.
By doing so, the President-elect would not only help move the U.S. further forward in building a vital, resilient and equitable U.S. economy and society, he would help assure the U.S. continues to play a leadership role in foreign relations and addressing pressing issues and challenges that extend well beyond national borders.
You may have to delve deep to imagine our new president doing this. Perhaps as deep as the often bizarre results of experiments in sub-atomic physics, but stranger things do happen.
*Image credits: 1) YouTube; 2) UNFCCC, COP-22