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Under Trump – Enviros Gear Up for a Fight

by Sheila McLean, SVP/Director U.S. Citizenship & Sustainability, MSLGROUP

Environmental leaders from around the world gathered this week in Morocco to flush out details of the Paris climate change accord despite fears that the work will be undone by President-Elect Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress. Trump is expected to move quickly to reverse the Obama/Clinton climate agenda, including pulling out of the global climate agreement.

glacier-anchorage-alaska-prince-william-sound-global-warming-pic1Trump has put Myron Ebell, a well-known climate skeptic, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition working group, a move that has drawn the ire of environmentalists.

The Trump plan calls for lifting restrictions on the production of shale oil, natural gas, and coal, approving controversial pipeline construction projects and opening federal lands to oil and gas exploration and coal mining. He has also promised to block implementation of the Clean Power Plan requiring utilities to lower carbon emissions.

The EPA is likely to be “starved” of funding and power as Trump rolls back federal regulations. Funding of basic research and development at the Department of Energy (DOE), meanwhile, will be reduced, raising fears of a “brain drain” of scientists.

While environmentalists and progressives are anxious and disheartened by all this, the news is not all bad. Investments in renewable energy – especially solar and wind – are expected to continue. Both solar and wind have seen significant price drops, making them cost competitive with dirtier forms of energy and therefore very attractive. Utilities and corporations who have bet big on renewables and other environmentally-friendly innovations are unlikely to walk away from their commitments.

Companies are unlikely to back away from their carbon commitments given the risks associated with climate change, growing competition and regulatory requirements elsewhere in the world. That means investments in green product innovations like electric vehicles, energy efficiency tools and water treatment and conservation technologies will continue to be made by the private sector.

And donations to leading advocacy groups have risen dramatically over the last week. The Sierra Club said it had registered 9,000 new monthly donors over the last week — more new donors than the organization added in the previous 10 months. Advocacy groups including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Climate Reality Project and the Natural Resources Defense council have vowed to fight.

solar-panels

David Doniger, director of the climate program at NRDC told Reuters: “We are going to fight these rollbacks, if that is what they do, each step of the way. It’s going to be a legal battle but it’s also going to be a battle in the court of public opinion. Whatever people voted for, they did not vote against climate action, clean air, clean water, and environmental protection.”

The fight is certain to heat up in the 2018 mid-terms when a number of Democratic incumbents in energy-rich states that Trump won will face challenges. These include Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota (wind, shale oil), Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia (coal), Sen. Bob Casey in Pennsylvania (fracking) and Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida (offshore drilling).

sheila-mclean-qorvis-mslgroupSheila leads Corporate and Brand Citizenship practice for MSLGROUP North America. She has delivers award-winning integrated programs that inspire action. She was former director of safety and environmental affairs at DaimlerChrysler, Communications Officer at the Mott Foundation, state policy advisor and reporter. @sgmclean8 | sheila.mclean@mslgroup.com

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