After gutting the Environmental Protection Agency, placing its’ scientists in a hiring freeze, instilling a gag order on the department and slashing its’ budget by over 30%, Donald Trump has taken aim at his predecessor’s environmental policies. An executive order signed on Tuesday wiped billions of dollars in climate change funds off the government’s agenda, and repealed several key environmental policies that were geared towards keeping the United States in line with its’ carbon emission promises it had made at COP21.
The order removed the moratorium on federal coal leasing as well as any requirement federal officials had to ensure sustainable development criteria be met for new projects. Supposedly signed to ensure that the country’s coal industry roar back to life, it has been met with a lot of criticism by economists, politicians and scientists.
Last year in the United States, solar by itself generated more jobs that the entire fossil fuel industry combined, per the government’s own fact-checker. The latest move to try and revive the coal industry isn’t expected to move the needle in the employment category, but could have devastating effects on the environment.
The coal industry has been on an uncontrollable downfall for several years, due mostly to energy providers switching to natural gas and renewables whilst America’s biggest coal buyer, China, has substantially reduced its’ coal usage, preferring less polluting alternatives. This trend has also been seen in Australia, where the country’s mining sector has been hit hard by global efforts towards curbing carbon emissions.
Economists predict no change in the industry’s viability as a result of this latest executive order, with a decline still expected as the world continues to move away from coal to cheaper, more efficient energy sources. However, this latest move is a devastating blow to the country’s environmental protection, with laws surrounding air and water pollution, the reporting of hazardous spills and regulations surrounding pollution levels having all been repealed. The repercussions on the US’ commitments to COP21 can also not be ignored, with its’ goals and promises now seeming harder to attain as the world works together to reduce the impacts of climate change.