The Hits Keep Coming! Trump EPA climate move risks unraveling UN Paris commitments

BY DEVIN HENRY – 03/29/17 06:00 AM EDT

President Trump’s climate change order has thrown a wrench into the Paris climate deal.

Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order undoing most of the major climate work Barack Obama pursued as president.

The order didn’t touch the Paris agreement, an international pact on greenhouse gas emissions that Obama pursued aggressively during his second term. But it begins the process of ending the electricity-sector pollution regulation Obama said would help fulfill U.S. commitments, a decision that underlines Trump’s dismissal of the agreement.

There is internal debate in the Trump administration about the importance of staying in the Paris deal. But Tuesday’s order — and other measures Trump has advanced during his presidency — indicates he’s ready to leave it behind, formally or not.

“This is like a runner on a track,” David Waskow, the international climate director at the World Resources Institute, said of the order’s impact on U.S. climate work.

“The runner is going to keep moving forward, but someone is on the edge of the track throwing all sorts of objects in the way.”

Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015. It aims to cut pollution from the electricity sector as a way to help achieve Obama’s ambitious goal in the Paris agreement: a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025

Trump’s Tuesday order only mandates a review of the Clean Power Plan. But he and his administration aggressively oppose it, indicating it’s likely to come off the books after the review.

Undoing the regulation would undermine federal efforts to meet Obama’s Paris goal, unraveling the U.S. commitments under the pact.

“Without the Clean Power Plan, it will be impossible to achieve the U.S. [pledge] under the Paris agreement,” Robert Stavins, the director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, said in an email. “It would have been difficult even with the Clean Power Plan.”

Trump’s climate order emboldened critics of the Paris deal.

“I think the U.S. ought to withdraw from the climate agreement in Paris,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said on Tuesday.

“I think it was a mistake by President Obama, and since he chose not to bring it to the Senate for confirmation, it’s clearly not a treaty, so I’m for withdrawing from it completely.”

Trump’s industry allies, while praising the details of the order itself, said the administration also needs to move quickly to get out of the Paris accord.

“We urge the president to fulfill his campaign promises to remove the U.S. from the Paris agreement,” said former Trump transition official Thomas Pyle, the president of the American Energy Alliance, which receives some fossil fuel funding.

“Failure to do so could risk the remainder of President Trump’s attempts to rein in the regulatory state and undo the harmful climate policies of the previous administration.”