Trump to 'honour Paris deal withdrawal pledge'
London, 30 January (Argus) — US president Donald Trump will honour his campaign pledge to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement and defund UN climate programmes, a former adviser to the new administration has said.
Myron Ebell served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) transition team from early September until 19 January, when he helped to draft an advisory action plan on how to implement Trump's campaign promises.
At a press briefing held by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in London today, Ebell declined to divulge any details of the EPA document on the grounds that it is confidential.
But Ebell, a well-known climate change sceptic and head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) energy and environment centre, outlined Trump's "very clear" promises on energy and the environment that he is convinced the new president will honour.
Apart from withdrawing from the UN climate deal, Trump will also potentially repeal all of the previous administration's EPA rules on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions including the clean power plan and the climate action plan.
Ebell expects Trump "to be very assiduous in keeping his promises despite all the flack he is going to get from his opponents," adding that he brings a "message of hope" in terms of the new administration's energy and environment policy.
The first hopeful aspect is that the US will clearly change course on climate policy, Ebell said. Secondly, the new US president has undertaken to unleash US energy production growth. Trump said he wants to make the US the world's largest energy producer and achieve a position of global dominance for the country, he said.
"This is obviously good for the US, but also for the world because in becoming the top global energy supplier the US will reduce the influence of certain countries in the Middle East and of Russia," Ebell said. "This is going to happen because the US has the world's largest fossil fuel reserves — by far the largest coal reserves and also, because of the shale revolution, gigantic fields of natural gas and oil."
An apparent contradiction emerged in recent weeks between Trump's position and that of his incoming secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who said the US will "remain part" of UN climate discussions. When asked about these contrasting positions, Ebell said it is impossible for him to predict the outcome, but "in a disagreement with the president, who do you think will win?"
Ebell outlined three major ways in which Trump can annul US participation in the Paris climate deal. In the first instance, the president can simply stop any US financial contributions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In any event, all US funding to the UNFCCC, including to the Green Climate Fund, represents a violation of US law ever since Palestine — which is not internationally recognised as a legitimate state — was accepted as a UNFCCC member, Ebell argued.
Trump can have the US Congress reject the Paris agreement on the basis that legally it is a treaty and does not qualify as an executive presidential order. He can also withdraw the US from the UNFCCC altogether, which according to Ebell would be "the cleanest way" as it would absolve the US from any commitments, financial or otherwise, under the UNFCCC and the Paris climate deal.
As for the EPA's "endangerment finding" in 2009 that GHGs are a threat to human health and the environment, following a supreme court ruling which paved the way for the agency to regulate GHGs, Ebell said the finding "can be undone and should be undone."
The finding can simply be reversed by following the same process by which it was instated, that is by reopening the regulation for public comment, publishing a new determination in the Federal Register and, no doubt, opening it to litigation from environmental groups and jurisdictions such as California and New York that will oppose it, he said.
An alternative and much quicker route would be for Congress to strike down the EPA's GHG endangerment finding and for this to be subsequently endorsed by presidential signature, Ebell added.