Millennium Post

Can state action cushion anti-environment policies?

How will Donald Trump's Presidency affect the world? Will he implement radical policies or continue USA's bland status quo on climate change? According to a report published by the Centre for Science and Environment, USA’s recent decline in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed primarily to the prevailing economic circumstances and not to any significant concern for the environment. The Trump Presidency, however, in addition to being unambitious, is also likely to be regressive on climate change.

 The deregulation and softening of environmental standards promised by Donald Trump will significantly increase GHG emissions from fossil fuel consumption. It is, however, of note that USA’s governance system gives more autonomy to its states, unlike India. This includes independent action on the environment. State’s autonomy has traditionally strengthened during Republican (Trump is one) administrations. However, the strong federal stance may overshadow this autonomy and negatively affect states that perform better environment governance.

For example, New York State placed a moratorium on fracking (hydraulic fracturing), due to federal laws regulating shale gas production. Such policies may have to change, as federal permits for fossil fuel production and exploration are slated to increase. This may hold supremacy over state regulations on oil and gas production, leading to legal ambiguity.

The state of California stands out in climate change action. In the past, it has fared better than federal regulations on fuel efficiency, energy efficiency, carbon trading (and taxation), renewable energy expansion, among others. Implementing such progressive climate and environmental policy will be more difficult in Trump’s Presidency because of federal disincentives for such interventions.
About 87 percent of all the new solar power projects added in the US were concentrated in ten (of the total 50) states, with California leading the pack. Some states like Arizona with high renewable energy potential are not investing in it. 

The concentrated nature of solar energy signals the importance of state action to develop increasing renewable energy capacity. The scale of renewable energy development, however, will suffer because of the lack of political will federal incentives.

USA’s laggard stance may motivate Norway and other developed Scandinavian countries, who have an increasingly significant role in providing international funding for climate change, to increase their climate commitments. There will, however, still be a big deficit left in climate finance if the US backs out of its technology and funding commitments. The USA is also likely to use its diplomatic clout to weaken enforcement of the Paris Agreement.

How is COP22 reacting to Trump’s win?
The election of a climate change denier like Donald Trump as the 45th President of the US today has rattled delegates and civil society members alike at the COP22. Fears that the election of Trump will derail the process of climate negotiations are surfacing and have become more palpable over the course of the morning sessions. Civil society groups have held some press conferences to address fears while delegates, both from the US and elsewhere, have remained tight-lipped.

Some delegates admit, but only in private, that the election of Trump is likely to be bad for international cooperation and the global efforts to fight climate change. However, they say that it is too early to tell anything about how Trump's election will affect the American stance or the talks. The general feeling is that of a nervous anticipation. 

 If the federal government pulls out of the Paris Agreement and from Obama's climate action plan, it will have a noticeable impact. Though there seems to be support in the US to promote clean energy initiatives, what would happen to other regulations in place and commitments that the country has made on a global platform? 
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