Tuesday, November 15, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: Trump Likely To Slash And Burn Obama’s Climate Policy

Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes On The EPA

In this newsletter:

1) Trump Likely To Slash And Burn Obama’s Climate Policy
Financial Times, 11 November 2016
2) Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes On The EPA
The New York Times, 11 November 2016

3) Tears, Angst And Retirement Plans As EPA Staff Brace For Trump Takeover
E&E News, 11 November 2016
4) Trump Victory: Shock And Disbelief At Marrakech UN Climate Talks
The Economic Times of India, 10 November 2016
5) Without Obama’s Climate $$Billions, Paris Agreement Could Fall Apart
Reuters, 12 November 2016
6) Neil Collins: The Climate Change Act Must Go, Eventually
Financial Times, 11 November 2016
7) Nick Butler: Time For Adaptation To Reality
Financial Times, 14 November 2016
8) And Finally: China Announces Massive Rise In Coal Capacity
The Wall Street Journal, 8 November 2016

Full details:

1) Trump Likely To Slash And Burn Obama’s Climate Policy
Financial Times, 11 November 2016
John Dizard

“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward.” – Barack Obama, January 14 2014

The problem with President Obama’s strategy for his political and policy legacy is that an “action” that lives by the pen can die by the pen. So it will be, apparently, with his administration’s climate and other environmental policies, which are on the way to being largely undone by Donald Trump’s administration after the property tycoon won the US election last week.

US and international climate activists will try to hang on, kicking and screaming, to the various big Obama climate actions. Unfortunately, it would seem to be the case that if a president decides to undo a previous president’s executive orders, or signatures on international agreements, he can do so. So kicking and screaming may describe the limits of the effective response to Mr Trump’s undoing of President Obama’s climate agenda.

For the most part, the outgoing president’s climate policy was enacted by decree, rather than laws or treaties ratified by the Senate. This seemed to be a clever idea at the time. After the 2010 elections, climate sceptics among the Republicans and fossil-fuel friendly Democrats were able to block controversial environmental legislation.

So the administration’s significant climate actions, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and the State Department’s negotiations for the Paris agreement, which set out an international action plan to tackle global warming, were taken without Congressional participation.

The Paris agreement reached at the UN climate change conference last November was, according to US law, an executive agreement rather than a treaty. Under the US constitution, treaties must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate, which is a major cat-herding problem even at the best of times.

The advantage of a treaty is that it has a higher ranking in law than executive actions or legislation passed through Congress or state governments. It is harder to undo.

The Paris agreement negotiators thought they had gotten around this problem by including within its terms a cumbersome three-year process that any signatory nation would have to follow to withdraw its assent. So this made the agreement “legally binding”, as everyone who mattered was saying at the time.

However, the people who did not matter at the time just elected a new US president, who has made promises to coal miners, mining companies and coal-burning utilities that he would rip up “Paris”. These people have spent the past year figuring out how to make good on Mr Trump’s promise.

They took note that the Paris agreement is really a subsidiary agreement of another international accord, the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That has been governing all the annual gatherings on climate change since then. Any signatory, such as a Trump-led America, can withdraw from the UNFCC on one year’s notice.

Legal experts from US environmental organisations point out that under “customary international law” the country is bound to respect international executive agreements that are not treaties ratified by the Senate. And they are right.

Unfortunately, there is a conflict on this point between customary international law and the US constitution, one that has not really been tested. In the end, a president can probably just withdraw from an executive agreement when he decides to do so. He might be reviled by the international community, Congress and even the public, but he can almost certainly do it.

Full post

2) Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes On The E.P.A.
The New York Times, 11 November 2016
Henry Fountain

In looking for someone to follow through on his campaign vow to dismantle one of the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies, President-elect Donald J. Trump probably could not have found a better candidate for the job than Mr. Ebell.

The mug-shot posters, pasted on walls and lampposts around Paris by an activist group during the United Nations climate talks last year, were hardly flattering. They depicted Myron Ebell, a climate contrarian, as one of seven “climate criminals” wanted for “destroying our future.”

But in his customary mild-mannered way, Mr. Ebell, who directs environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian advocacy group in Washington, brushed it off.

“I’ve gotten used to this over the years,” he told an interviewer at the talks. “But I did go out and get my photo taken with my poster, just so I have it as a memento.”

In looking for someone to follow through on his campaign vow to dismantle one of the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies, President-elect Donald J. Trump probably could not have found a better candidate for the job than Mr. Ebell.

Mr. Ebell, who revels in taking on the scientific consensus on global warming, will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy more broadly.

Mr. Ebell, whose organization is financed in part by the coal industry, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the linchpin of that policy, the Clean Power Plan. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the plan is a far-reaching set of regulations that, by seeking to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation, could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants, among other effects.

Mr. Ebell has said that the plan, which has been tied up in the courts since it was finalized in 2015, is illegal. In the interview in Paris last year, he said he hoped whoever was elected president would “undo the E.P.A. power plant regs and some of the other regs that are very harmful to our economy.”

As the person Mr. Trump has chosen to lead the transition at the E.P.A., Mr. Ebell, 63, will be in a position to begin to do just that.

Mr. Ebell, who did not respond to a request for an interview, grew up on a ranch in Oregon. He got his undergraduate degree at Colorado College and master’s at the London School of Economics, where he studied under the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. He has described himself as “sort of a contrarian by nature and upbringing,” and has said he was very strongly influenced by the “question authority” ethos of 1960s and ’70s counterculture.

“I really think that people should be suspicious of authority,” he told an interviewer last year. “The more you’re told that you have to believe something, the more you should question it.”

Mr. Ebel leads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a loose-knit group that says it is “focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” He has been one of the nation’s most visible climate contrarians, known for dispensing memorable sound bites on cable news shows and at events like the annual conferences sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based group that rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.

Mr. Ebell has said that “a lot of third-, fourth- and fifth-rate scientists have gotten a long ways” by embracing climate change. He frequently mocks climate leaders like Al Gore, and has called the movement the “forces of darkness” because “they want to turn off the lights all over the world.”

No one, it seems, is immune to his criticism. He called Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, issued in mid-2015, “scientifically ill informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent and morally obtuse.”

“It is also theologically suspect, and large parts of it are leftist drivel,” he added.

Mr. Ebell cut his teeth in Washington working for Frontiers of Freedom, a research group founded by former Senator Malcolm Wallop, a Wyoming Republican, to advocate for limited government. He also worked for a Republican congressman from Arizona, John Shadegg, on an effort to revamp the Endangered Species Act to make it more respectful of property rights.

In interviews and speeches, Mr. Ebell comes off as amiable and calm. But he is hardly shy about lobbing verbal grenades, sometimes directly at scientists and environmentalists.

Full post

see also : Myron Ebell is perfectly suited to lead the transition to a new EPA

3) Tears, Angst And Retirement Plans As EPA Staff Brace For Trump Takeover
E&E News, 11 November 2016
Robin Bravender and Kevin Bogardus

EPA Building
There's been angst and even some tears for federal workers at EPA and other agencies after Donald Trump won the White House. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

U.S. EPA employees were in tears. Worried Energy Department staffers were offered counseling. Some federal employees were so depressed, they took time off. Others might retire early. And some employees are in downright panic mode in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory.

“People are upset. Some people took the day off because they were depressed,” said John O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, a union that represents thousands of EPA employees. After Election Day, “people were crying,” added O’Grady, who works in EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago. “They were recommending that people take sick leave and go home.”

EPA employees stand to see some of the most drastic changes under the Trump administration, and they may be taking things a bit harder than other government workers.

The president-elect has vowed to repeal some of the rules they’ve toiled on for the last eight years during the Obama administration, including the Clean Power Plan rule to cut power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump has even suggested abolishing the agency entirely, although that would be an uphill political climb. Trump has picked a top climate change skeptic to lead his EPA transition team — Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute — and has promised sweeping reforms in the agency that’s long been a target for industry groups and Republicans who say its rules overreach.

“If you look at the seven stages of grief, I’m still in denial. I will not look at the news. I will not read the news,” said an EPA career employee.

Another EPA staffer said, “I don’t actually know anybody here that was supporting Trump.” That person said people are “worried” that their work over the last eight years will be unraveled. “It’s always a time of uncertainty” when a new administration comes in, the employee said, and there were fears when the George W. Bush administration came into office, too. But “people are more worried this time,” the person added.

Silvia Saracco, head of a union chapter that represents EPA employees in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, said, “There is a lot of angst out there, nervousness.”

Some DOE employees are feeling glum, too.

Full post

4) Trump Victory: Shock And Disbelief At Marrakech UN Climate Talks
The Economic Times of India, 10 November 2016
Urmi Goswami

MARRAKECH (MOROCCO): Daylight broke in the ochre city with the news of Donald Trump’s decisive victory in the US elections. Trump’s victory came as a shock to most, who were prepared for a tight race with the expectation that Secretary Hillary Clinton would make it to the finish line with a slim margin. 

(AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy). Environmental activist Bethany Hindmarsh, 26, cries during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump at the Climate Conference, known as COP22, in Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. The election of a U.S. pres...
Environmental activist Bethany Hindmarsh, 26, cries during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump at the Climate Conference, known as COP22, in Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Shock and disbelief marked Bab Ighli, the venue of the UN-sponsored climate meet. Even as delegates sought to retain an air of normalcy virtually every conversation turned to Trump, and what the elevation of a climate denier to the White House meant for the global efforts to tackle climate change.

Throughout his campaign, Trump repudiated climate change. He described it as a Chinese hoax, denied the science, described climate change funding as wasteful. While candidate Trump has been categorical about his views on climate change, it is unclear if as president he will follow through. Observers from the United States and other countries stressed that it was too soon to say what the Trump Administration would do.

This isn’t diplomatic sidestepping of the question. The fact is that it is too early to determine what President-elect Trump will do.

He could well follow through on his promise to pull out from the Paris Agreement, but since the treaty is already in force, the United States is locked in for three years, with another year or so for the process of withdrawal from the treaty.

Full story

5) Without Obama’s Climate $$Billions, Paris Agreement Could Fall Apart
Reuters, 12 November 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s policies are likely to make it harder for developing nations to obtain the growing finance they need to combat climate change, threatening one pillar of a 2015 international agreement to slow global warming.

Many developing nations’ promises to act under last year’s Paris Agreement set pre-conditions including increasing funds to help them limit greenhouse gas emissions and make their economies more resilient to heat waves, floods, storms and rising seas.

Without extra money, they say they won’t be able to do so much. Trump, who has called man-made climate change a hoax, wants to cancel the Paris Agreement and halt any U.S. taxpayer funds for U.N. global warming programs.

If he follows through, that will threaten a collective pledge by rich nations in Paris to raise climate finance from both public and private sources from a combined $100 billion a year promised for 2020.

Since Trump’s win, nations from China to Saudi Arabia have reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement’s goal of eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions sometime from 2050 to 2100.

But there is widespread unease about finance at the Nov. 7-18 talks on climate change among almost 200 nations being held in Marrakesh, Morocco.

“My only worry is the money,” said Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of Democratic Republic of Congo, who heads a group of the 48 least developed nations. “It’s worrying when you know that Trump is a climate change skeptic,” he told Reuters.

Full story

6) Neil Collins: The Climate Change Act Must Go, Eventually
Financial Times, 11 November 2016

Only five MPs voted against the Climate Change Bill in September 2008. In an orgy of self-righteousness, parliament voted near-unanimously to cut the UK’s CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a date which is past the deadline of at least half of the honourable members who supported it.

Thus was laid the foundation of Britain’s barmy energy policy. This has given us expensive domestic fuel prices in a time of plenty, prevented the building of gas-fired power stations and culminated in the biggest postdated cheque ever written on the UK taxpayer, in the form of the finance for the Hinkley Point power station.
With luck, the UK should avoid power cuts this winter, but it will be close, and dirty, as National Grid admits.

Now the Court of Appeal has lit a tiny candle in the energy gloom, upholding the state’s right to cancel the exemption from the Climate Change Levy for renewables.

This was merely another little bung to the windmill subsidy farmers but Infinis Energy argued that under the Climate Change Act, it could not be removed. The court disagreed.

The sceptics at the Global Warming Policy Foundation describe the Act as “a one-shot rocket, quite without steering and with precious little provision for deceleration … if a change of pace is not possible, abrupt termination becomes inevitable”.

Repeal of this ill-starred legislation is a long way away but the court has taken a baby-step.

Full post

7) Nick Butler: Time For Adaptation To Reality
Financial Times, 14 November 2016
Nick Butler

The Paris agreement on climate change has been ratified, earlier than most people expected. Some believe that means the issue is on its way to being resolved. That is absolutely not the case.

Donald Trump’s election as president is a major setback because it removes any sense of American leadership on the issue. But that is not the only cause for concern. The inconvenient truth is that the use of coal in growing emerging economies continues to outpace anything being achieved elsewhere. The global energy market is changing; oil demand is coming to a peak and renewables are getting cheaper. But that, however important, is as yet having no more than a minor effect on the climate issue. We have to be realistic and prepare accordingly.

Climate change was barely mentioned in the US election campaign. More immediate issues — cultural, migration and the pessimism of the forgotten men and women of the middle classes — provide the focus of attention in the US, Europe and Japan. Climate change and the policies to deal with it are seen as just one reason for the deindustrialisation of the US. Mr Trump has been explicit on this and has characterised the concept of climate change as a Chinese fabrication designed to weaken American industry.

I doubt that he will bother to take his country out of the Paris agreement but there will be no significant US engagement in its implementation and Supreme Court justices could strike down the regulations designed to tighten emission standards on coal-fired power plants. Cheap gas and technology could continue to reduce US emissions but the government will not be a participant in the international dialogue on climate issues for at least the next four years.

But the problem is bigger than that. As the International Energy Agency’s new edition of the World Energy Outlook will remind us this week, hydrocarbons remain the source of three-quarters of world energy supply, and will still provide something close to that by 2040 even on optimistic assumptions about the implementation of the Paris promises.

Simply: the distribution of energy demand is shifting to the emerging economies. Gains in efficiency and cuts in emissions achieved in the developed world are liable to be overwhelmed by growth in demand in the east and south where demand remains focused on coal (in India and China in particular) and oil (especially in the Middle East). [...]

The outlook then is for increased use of hydrocarbons and increased emissions. Paris did not solve climate change. More is needed, and soon. Technology offers grounds for optimism, but progress must be dramatic to make a difference.

Given what is happening in the US and Asia it would be foolish to do other than plan on the basis that emissions will rise beyond the targets set. Ten years on from the Stern Report which raised public awareness of climate change we need a new global analysis of the means of adaptation to that prospect. That conclusion may be dismissed by some as fatalistic pessimism but the belief that implies in future changes in America and Asia to me defies credibility.

Full post

8) And Finally: China Announces Massive Rise In Coal Capacity
The Wall Street Journal, 8 November 2016
Brian Spegele

BEIJING—China’s government said it would raise coal power capacity by as much as 20% by 2020, ensuring a continuing strong role for the commodity in the country’s energy sector despite a pledge to bring down pollution levels.


In a new five-year plan for electricity released Monday, the National Energy Administration said it would raise coal-fired power capacity from around 900 gigawatts last year to as high as 1,100 gigawatts by 2020. The roughly 200-gigawatt increase alone is more than the total power capacity of Canada.

By comparison, the agency said it would increase non-fossil fuel sources from about 12% to 15% of the country’s energy mix over the same period. Coal would still make up about 55% of the electricity mix by 2020, down from around two-thirds in recent years.

“This is indeed a disappointing target,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, a campaigner at the environmental group Greenpeace. “Given that there is already severe overcapacity and demand for coal-fired power is going down, we would have expected a cap on coal power capacity much closer to the current capacity level.”

Greenpeace said China already had some 200 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity under construction, meaning that meeting its 13th Five Year Plan goal would require the government to halt some new projects and retire some existing plants.

Officials from the NEA defended the target in a press conference with Chinese journalists Monday, according to a transcript posted on the administration’s website. They said that the government was committed to reducing coal’s dominance in the energy mix and that they reserved the right to slow down coal-project approvals or construction, if necessary.

Full story

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

1 comment:

paul scott said...
Reply To This Comment

Another thing.
A Trump Presidency will veer away from war in the middle east Iran, Ukraine,
and of that minor matter of a world war with Russia which would leave the ashes to China.

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