US sets back efforts to fight climate change in favour of supporting coal industry

Lily Puckett

The Trump administration has finalised its Affordable Clean Energy rule, drastically setting back efforts to stop climate change in favour of supporting the coal industry.

The rule is a direct rebuttal of Barack Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, the first federal regulations to protect against carbon pollution for existing power plants.

The new rule requires the US power sector to cut its 2030 carbon emissions 35 per cent over 2005 levels. This requirement is less than half of what experts say is needed to avoid catastrophic warming.

Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and a former coal lobbyist, announced the final version of the rule on Wednesday. His speech named US achievements in environmental progress that exist because of regulations set in place to stop climate change as reasons to halt further regulation.

The new rule is backed by the coal industry, which has been an anchor in Donald Trump’s presidency, supporting him wholly in an effort to save the environmentally destructive industry from economic decline.

Rolling Stone today revealed that the president has been supported by a group called the Trump Leadership Council since the summer of 2016, when business leaders, described by critics as extreme and, for the most part, climate deniers, met to discuss what it would take to achieve a Trump presidency. They have advised him since.

In a statement issued following the rule’s finalisation, the Sierra Club called it “a deadly rollback and an illegal giveaway to the coal industry that EPA previously estimated could result in up to 1,400 pollution related deaths every year”.

“Trump and Wheeler are pushing a plan that will lead to thousands of deaths while ignoring the public’s demands for aggressive climate action, just so a handful of wealthy coal executives can make a little more money,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Club, said. “This is an immoral and an illegal attack on clean air, clean energy, and the health of the public, and it shows just how heartless the Trump administration is when it comes to appeasing its polluter allies.”

Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of Sunrise Movement, said the finalisation "killed one of the last remaining pieces of legislation to protect my generation from climate disaster".

"It is clearer than ever before: the fossil fuel billionaires and the lobbyists and politicians they employ are dead set on burning every last inch of our earth," she continued. "Without a doubt, this is a dark time in American history, but I am hopeful because an army of young people is rising up in every corner of the US to demand a Green New Deal, protect the health of our families, and create millions of good jobs. This is more fuel for our movement that is growing stronger every day."

Though Mr Wheeler made the announcement of the ACE’s finalisation in front of coal miners in hard hats, it’s unclear whether the effort will be enough to substantially help the dying industry.