trump climate change

US Government under Trump ‘could be sued by environmental groups’ to protect climate policies

President-elect Donald Trump’s apparent disdain for anti-climate change policy could lead to mass suing of the US government by environmental groups, according to Andrew Steer, president of the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

Steer said action to address global warming should be non-partisan if it is to make the kind of ambitious progress needed to prevent the more severe effects that are predicted to occur in the future.

Trump has suggested he will scrap policies to address climate change in his first year in office, Steer said, noting that even “the Environmental Protection Agency could be pulled off the table and abolished.” 

He predicted that US environmental groups will increasingly take the government to court to safeguard climate policies.

If Trump tries to reverse US backing for the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, the country could find itself among a tiny pool of other reluctant nations including Syria, Nicaragua and Uzbekistan.

Despite his sceptical approach towards climate change while on the campaign trail, Trump did concede after his win that there might be ‘some connectivity’ between global warming and human activity, raising hopes that the US could remain as part of the Paris Agreement. 

Internationally, there has been “greater enthusiasm around the deal than expected” - a sign of what Steer called the “professionalisation of the fight against climate change” with more countries seeing at home that economic growth doesn’t need to produce higher emissions.

“Since the beginning of the century GDP has increased in 30 countries while their CO2 emissions have declined - and the club is growing,” he said, while also noting that the link between forced migration and climate pressures is a growing problem.

An average of 26 million people worldwide have been displaced by natural disasters per year since 2008, he said, citing data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

“That’s equivalent to one person per second,” he said.

Whether new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres follows Ban Ki-moon in prioritising climate change “will be critical for climate action worldwide”, Steer added.

Rising global populism, as well as coming elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands, are also likely to affect climate policies, Steer said. “If you’re against globalisation, you tend to be against global agreements on climate.”

Whether the world sees any level of fossil fuel renaissance or a continuing renewable energy surge also remains to be seen this year, he added.

The coal industry is declining globally, he said, while wind and solar energy are now cost-competitive with many fossil fuels, bolstered by a surge in clean energy investment.

Emerging markets are proving leaders in clean energy, he said, pointing to China’s commitment last week to spend at least $360bn (£293bn) on renewable energy by 2020.

But in the United States - as well as other nations - corporate commitments to climate action also are accelerating, Steer said.

“One fifth of US professionally managed assets were guided by some form of sustainable investment practices in 2016,” he said.

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