President Donald Trump has signed an executive order rolling back Obama-era rules aimed at tackling global warming.
The order seeks to suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.
As part of the roll-back, Mr Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was the Barack Obama's signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.
President Trump signed the order at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying that this is “the start of a new era” in energy production. He also said that his administration was going to “end the war on coal”.
Mr Trump has previously called global warming a “hoax,” and has repeatedly criticised Mr Obama's efforts as an attack on American workers and the struggling US coal industry.
Environmental advocates are not surprised by the order – given such remarks – but say Mr Trump has not considered the public health and economic implications of not fighting climate change or how the order negatively affects US standing in the world.
Laurence Tubbiana, formerly the top French diplomat on climate change and now the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said in a statement that the order “will propel the economy backwards.”
Anne Kelly a Senior Director at Ceres, a coalition of investors and business that promote sustainability, told The Independent that the Clean Power Plan was the “crown jewel of the Obama administration’s climate plan.”
Ms Kelly said it was possibly “the most important thing any nation had ever done to reduce carbon emissions.”
She explained the Clean Power Plan had bipartisan support and its rollback would hurt not only job creation in renewable energy sector but sends “the wrong signal” to investors in the private sector.
Mr Trump gave his statement after an off-camera signing ceremony, flanked by coal miners from West Virginia.
He said the order would “start a new era…[in] making America wealthy again.”
Green group Earthjustice was one of many organizations that said it will fight the order both in and out of court. “This order ignores the law and scientific reality,” said its president, Trip Van Noppen.
Given that private sector investment in the renewable energy industry hit $350 billion in 2016 globally, outpacing new investment in the oil and gas sector for the first time, Ms Kelly said she expects the “marketplace is going to go forward regardless of what the White House does.”
Several of the country’s largest pension funds, accounting for tens of billions in investment, have already begun divesting money from oil and gas companies in order to ensure a more profitable future for their investors.
In 2007, under Republican George W. Bush’s administration, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon emissions were essentially a pollutant, Ms Kelly explained.
The ruling made it the EPA’s responsibility to regulate carbon pollution as a matter of public health after a series of “endangerment hearings.” Ms Kelly said states were given quite a bit of flexibility in how to reach the goal of reducing carbon emissions as well.
Mr Trump also said during his speech that safety, clean water, and clean air are still priorities, but that his latest order will eliminate the “crushing attack” on economic freedoms, jobs in coal mining, and American manufacturing by the “bad” regulations.
Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and the United Nations Special Envoy on climate change, said rescinding regulations on health and markets is not going to put miners back to work.
“Market forces, including consumer preferences and technological advancement, are the primary reason for the surge in cleaner forms of energy,” said Mr Bloomberg.
Solar and wind industries are creating jobs at nearly 12 times faster than the rest of the American economy and an overwhelming majority of wind farms in the US are in Republican districts.
Some see Mr Trump’s push to bring back coal jobs as a way to gain support he needs from coal district members of Congress, like Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Additionally, Mr Trump’s proposed federal budget makes deep cuts to the EPA – removing 28 per cent of funding.
The cuts, if the budget is approved by Congress, will result in the loss of over 2000 jobs and curtails several key programmes.
Mr Trump’s proposed budget also has cuts of $100 million across all agencies to programmes related to stemming global warming or combating the effects of climate change.
This includes cuts to the US Coast Guard. It is primarily a maritime security agency but does extensive work in ocean life preservation and monitoring of oil spills and illegal dumping in US waters.
The Trump administration plans on rolling out a more complete federal budget in May.