Donald Trump set his administration’s “environmental leadership” in a speech on Monday where he announced US as a world leader.
The US president has been at the helm of an administration that has pursued numerous cuts in environmental protections and last year saw a rise in greenhouse gases of 3.4% – the biggest rise in emissions since 2010.
He has also publicly aired his doubts over the existence of climate change – previously calling it a “hoax”, suggesting that the climate could “change back again” and falsely claiming it was a phenomenon invented by China.
A report by the State Energy and Environmental Impact Centre at New York University’s school of law published in March said the Trump administration had “set its sights on watering down or outright repealing a half-dozen health and environmental rules critical to the health and welfare of all Americans as well as the planet”. Here are five of the biggest environmental setbacks under Trump:
1. Departure from the Paris climate agreement: In June 2017, less than five months after his inauguration, Trump announced his plan to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement. He told an audience outside the White House: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”. He claimed the agreement, signed by the US and nearly 200 countries in 2015, promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global heating below 2C, unfairly disadvantaged the US and negatively impacted jobs and factories.
2. Shrinking national monuments and animal protections: Trump attracted broad criticism in December 2017 when he announced plans to slash the size of two national monuments in Utah. Bears Ears was cut from 1.5m acres to 228,784 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante almost halved from approximately 2m acres to 1,006,341 acres – marking the biggest elimination of public lands protection in America’s history. In August 2018 officials announced plans to allow more mining on the land and to sell some of it off – despite previously vowing not to. The following month, the administration announced plans to remove key provisions from the Endangered Species Act – prompting conservationists to warn it could put vulnerable plant and animal species in more danger.
3. Rollback of the Clean Power Plan: The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of finalizing plans to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule intended to cut emissions from power plants and encourage them to move towards natural gas and renewable power. The regulations, which were announced in 2015 and had the backing of hundreds of businesses, were billed at the time as the “biggest step that any single president has made to curb the carbon pollution that is fueling climate change”.
4. Cuts to clean water protections: The Trump administration plans to remove protections from thousands of America’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands, which is feared will harm wildlife and enable pollution to enter drinking water. Under the proposal, fewer waterways would require permits to pollute – including agricultural runoff and industry waste. Currently, protected waterways provide drinking water to approximately 117 million people.
5. More methane: In September 2018, the Trump administration announced its plans to repeal rules that aim to restrict methane leaks on public and tribal lands. The Obama administration tried to cut leaks by forcing oil and gas companies to capture methane (a key gas involved in global heating), update technology and arrange to monitor leaked gas. But the Department of the Interior has branded the rule “flawed” and “unnecessarily burdensome on the private sector”.