Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a key energy advisor to the Donald Trump administration, has some interesting ideas about America’s role in the Paris climate agreement.
In a recent letter to the president, Cramer suggested the U.S. “use its seat at the Paris table to defend and promote our commercial interests” — while simultaneously rolling back commitments to reduce emissions.
Cramer specifically mentioned the Barack Obama administration’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared to a 2005 baseline. He said the target “would cause irreparable damage to our economy, particularly our manufacturing and energy sectors, and should be rejected.”
Instead of Obama’s pledge, Cramer proposed that the U.S. “present a new pledge that does no harm to our economy.”
Critics of the administration say Cramer is clearly a shill for the fossil fuel energy, and they have plenty of material to back up their claim. In his letter he states, “We must include plans to drive technology to help ensure a future for fossil fuels within the context of the global climate agenda.” And advocates say there’s a reason Cramer stands up for fossil fuels: He is indebted to the industry. Two of the top five contributors to his 2015-2016 campaign were fossil fuel companies.
But Cramer is not the only Trump advisor to make statements against climate change action. Myron Ebell, who served on Trump’s transition team as the advisor on energy and climate change, called the environmental movement “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world.” He made the remarks back in January in London during an event by an anti-climate change organization, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Ebell described the science behind climate change as being “vastly exaggerated.”
The Trump administration seems to be listening to Cramer and other advisors who disparage climate change action and champion fossil fuels. Last week, Trump released his proposed budget, which reduces funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 percent and cuts climate change programs. Mick Mulvaney, White House budget director, called climate initiatives “a waste of your money.”
But other stakeholders say cutting climate programs and research will hurt the economy and international relations, and slow down global efforts to decrease GHG emissions. Transitioning to clean energy will “fuel economic growth and create new employment opportunities,” according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). It will boost the global GDP by about 0.80 percent in 2050, or $1.6 trillion, and the cumulative gain through increased GDP will be around $19 trillion from now until 2050.
Trump’s proposed budget is causing a stir internationally. Laurence Tubiana, an architect of the Paris climate deal, called the proposed budget “an intention; it is a signal clearly, and it is a pity because the U.S. will not be truthful to its commitments.” That “will certainly create a lot of diplomatic feedback,” he added.
Climate experts from China and India are also concerned about the proposed budget. Chai Qimin, an international climate cooperation expert with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said “an ambitious green plan will be more difficult to implement than previously – and may even meet skepticism and opposition, if the U.S. lowers its ambitions in such a way.” India’s former environment minister Jairam Ramesh added: “India will continue with its aggressive solar energy program, but it may have earned a breather to execute its coal expansion plans.”
There’s a reason why the Trump administration doesn’t care if climate inaction hurts the economy or international relations. Many in the administration have deep ties to the fossil fuel industry. Take EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. In 2014, the New York Times reported that Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general had a “secretive alliance … with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda.”
The Trump administration is filling positions in the federal government with many who come from the fossil fuel industry, including oil and coal industry employees, according to documents obtained by Propublica. Doug Matheney, who was hired as an assistant U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, is one of them. E&E News reported that Matheney worked as the state coordinator for the Count on Coal Initiative, which promotes coal. He was also a coordinator for Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by Koch Industries.
Pack an administration full of climate change deniers with ties to fossil fuel companies, and this is what you get.
Image credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore