Trump reverses US climate protection regulations

Environmentalists have warned the move "ignores scientific reality” and pledged to challenge the orders in court

Trump reverses US climate protection regulations

File photo: The Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant in Kansas, USA, 12-Nov-2014. Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Updated 22:00

US President Donald Trump has signed a series of orders today, undermining America's commitment to tackling global warming.

During his first trip to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), President Trump - who has called global warming "a hoax" created by China - signed an "Energy Independence Executive Order."

The order suspends, rescinds or flags for review more than a half-dozen measures introduced under the Obama administration.

His instructions allow regulators to rewrite key rules curbing US carbon emissions, lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and scrap a requirement for federal officials to consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

After signing the new order, President Trump said he was ushering in a "new era in American energy;"

Central to the roll-back is a review of the clean power plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

The plan, introduced by former President Barack Obama, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

The plan pledged to cut US carbon emissions by 26% - 28% by 2025 - paving the way for the United States’ entry into the Paris Climate Accord which was agreed by 195 countries.

A senior Trump administration official told the AFP news agency that the prospect of withdrawal from the Paris agreement was "still under discussion."

Ignoring scientific reality

The Trump administration claims the orders are meant to bolster domestic energy production, but environmentalists have warned that the move “ignores scientific reality” and have promised to challenge the plan in court.

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, primarily due to human activity, through the release of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide.

U.S. President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, 27-03-2017. Image: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The White House said the measures will "help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable, and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation."

The President has already vowed to slash EPA funding by a third and appointed Scott Pruitt - who previously sued the agency - as its head.

Mr Pruitt alarmed scientists around the world earlier this month when he said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

President Trump's pick of former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State has also caused concern among environmental campaigners.

The administration's preliminary budget proposal for 2018 also includes stringent cutbacks to climate change research - notably at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

Both bodies provide invaluable data on climate change that is used by researchers throughout the world. 

Climate denial

A Trump official today told reporters the president does believe in man-made climate change. 

However his climate scepticism and promises to bring back coal mining jobs to states like Kentucky and West Virginia appeared to strike a chord with Republican supporters on the campaign trail.

Around 68% of Americans believe climate change is caused by humans, but just 40% of Republicans say they worry about it, according to a Gallup poll.

Some experts have warned the economic benefit from ditching the clean power plan will be limited, while efforts to undo environmental laws are likely to be challenged in the courts.

"In my view, it will have virtually no impact," said professor James Van Nostrand of West Virginia University, who said the decline of coal had more to do with higher mining costs and cheaper natural gas and renewables.

"Defunding or dismantling the EPA and repealing its regulations is not going to bring the coal industry back."

The United States is the world's second largest polluter. Around 37% of domestic carbon dioxide emissions come from electricity generation.

Mr Trump has issued a series of executive orders since entering the Oval Office in January.

He would claim success for pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership international trade agreement - which he saw as a "bad deal" for the country.

But his most controversial order - a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries - has twice been blocked by legal challenges.

Additional reporting by IRN ...