Expert: Trump’s climate policy ‘not necessarily catastrophic’

Zou Ji, a Chinese climate expert and senior negotiator, believes “Obama’s climate policies were not necessarily that helpful, and Trump’s move this time is not necessarily that catastrophic.”

A Chinese expert in climate change said US President Donald Trump’s latest energy and climate-related policy is “not necessarily catastrophic” and its real impact needs to be closely watched from now on.

Trump signed an “energy independence” executive order on March 28, which dismantles many of his predecessor Barack Obama’s climate policies and has been lambasted by climate scientists and environment campaigners.

However, Zou Ji, a Chinese climate expert and senior negotiator, believes “Obama’s climate policies were not necessarily that helpful, and Trump’s move this time is not necessarily that catastrophic.”

Zou told China.org.cn by phone on March 30 that the climate pledge made by Obama was not “ambitious enough and somewhat watered down,” thus the incumbent president’s determination to revoke it will not necessarily mean a very severe regression in actual effect.

The United States contributes around 16 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, and Obama had pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below its 2005 level by 2025 and to “make best efforts” to reduce overall emissions by 28 per cent.

Zou said the key factors in the U.S. carbon reduction and low-carbon agenda still remained intact under Trump; for instance, the tax reduction and exemption for renewable energy is not likely to be rescinded.

He believed the market would continue to play a fundamental role in America’s energy and climate choice, despite President Trump’s promise to bring back the coal industry. The price of coal-fired power is higher than gas power and has thus lost its appeal in the United States, he said.

A key part of the executive order on Tuesday is a review of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which focused on reducing the country’s emissions from coal-burning power plants, as well as increasing the use of renewable energy. The plan is often seen as a lynchpin in America’s climate agenda.

Zou said “reviewing” the Clean Power Plan virtually means putting it on hold, as it could not be implemented in the process of a review that might take years.

Trump is widely seen as a climate skeptic who vowed to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate agreement during his presidential campaign. The move this time is seen by some as meeting his campaign promise.

Zou said that, whether the US would officially withdraw from the Paris Agreement needs to be carefully watched, adding that, if it took place, it would bring negative ramifications in its domestic climate agenda as well as its accountability in the international community.

This story was published with permission from China.org.cn

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