It’s probably safe to say that just about every one of the millions of people concerned about climate change are waiting in dread of what Donald Trump could do when he takes office as president. After all, he made many pledges on the campaign trail that would be grossly counter-productive to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Among these are promises to reopen coal plants, approve controversial pipelines, and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement signed at COP21 last year, in which pledges for aggressive action by both China and the U.S. were critical in paving the way for close to 200 nations to get on board.
Not everyone is waiting. Last week at the COP22 climate talks in Morocco, a group of 365 major corporations and investors came forward proactively with an open letter to the president-elect, urging him not to withdraw from the Paris accord.
Given that Mr. Trump ran as a business candidate, it would seem an appeal from some of the biggest corporations in the world — including names like Mars, Nike, Levi Strauss and Starbucks — would be more likely to attract attention than citizens rallies or protests by environmental groups. Also included among the signatories are DuPont, eBay, Unilever, Hewlett-Packard and Hilton.
“Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” the executives said in their letter. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”
The executives said they would continue to pursue a low-carbon agenda in their own operations.
Last week in Marrakech, leaders gathered to extend and solidify the commitments made last year into actionable steps. As threatening as a Trump presidency could be to climate progress, analysis reveals that economic forces, not government policies, are the largest factor driving mass decarbonization. The closing of American coal plants, for example, is being driven far more by price competition from natural gas than by anything the Obama administration has done through the EPA.
Specifically, the letter calls on elected American leaders to “strongly support” the following:
- Continuation of low-carbon policies to allow the U.S. to meet or exceed its promised national commitment and to increase our nation’s future ambition
- Investment in the low-carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost the confidence of investors worldwide
- Continued U.S. participation in the Paris agreement, in order to provide the long-term direction needed to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius
One particularly salient quote accompanying the letter came from Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management:
“The enormous momentum generated by the business and investment community to address climate change cannot be reversed and cannot be ignored by the Trump administration,” said Patsky of Trillium Asset Management.
“That train has left the station and to stand in its way is folly. Nevertheless, we know that now is the time to remind the incoming administration that virtually every company in the Fortune 500 and over $100 trillion in investor assets has acknowledged the reality of climate change and the need to address it head on.”
Comments like this one, it would seem, would be hard for a business-oriented leader like Trump to ignore.
Before the election, a number of pundits suggested that Trump would become more reasonable once in office, if he were to win. We can only hope, at this point, that this will be the case.
Technically, since ratification was hastily passed in October, in no small part due to fears of a Trump win, a four-year process is now required for a country to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Even so, if a major player like the U.S. reneged on its commitments, it could have a domino effect, giving other countries less incentive to follow through on their commitments.
In a separate but related story, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its World Energy Outlook, Donald Trump could reach his goal of making the U.S. energy independent (meaning that all oil would come from North American sources). It would take until 2040 to do that. But, according to the agency, that goal could actually be achieved sooner with an emphasis on energy efficiency and renewables, as well as a shift away from petroleum for vehicle propulsion. So, it’s possible that even if Trump continues to doubt the scientific consensus on climate change, he might still pursue what could amount to a low-carbon agenda in pursuit of his goal of rapidly moving away from dependency on Middle Eastern oil.