We'll protect and defend the environment in 2017 – with or without President Trump

Fred Krupp

For more than 30 years, Environmental Defense Fund has been committed to bipartisan environmental progress, and the results have been incontestable. Every major environmental law since the early 1970s has been passed with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans.

We’ve worked closely with presidents from both parties and believe this approach remains the best way to achieve positive results for the environment in the long run. But we also believe in fighting when it’s necessary.

This is one of those times.

On January 20, Donald Trump will take a sacred oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It’s every president’s duty to protect and defend America’s people, land and precious resources.

But the president-elect campaigned saying he would dismantle our bedrock environmental protections, and his nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a clear signal that he’s preparing to do just that.

So if Trump and his team of insiders won’t protect and defend our natural heritage – we, the people, will do it ourselves.

That’s why EDF is working with our allies to chart a path for progress while defending our nation’s bipartisan environmental legacy.

A moment of great peril

Following a campaign in which he declared himself “not a big believer in global warming” and said he would “cancel” the international Paris climate agreement, Trump also reiterated that he wants to return us to the era of unlimited carbon pollution by attempting to cancel the Clean Power Plan.

His cabinet nominations reflect a dangerous imbalance in favor of oil and gas interests, with no one to speak up on behalf of human health or a healthy natural world.

The men nominated for his top positions include ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, Rep. Ryan Zinke for interior secretary, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry – who has called climate action “nonsense” – for energy secretary.

Trump’s most unsettling action to date, however, has been his nomination for the top job at the EPA. Since becoming Oklahoma’s top lawyer in 2011, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the agency to block important public health standards for mercury, ozone and climate pollution.

But there are also powerful trends pointing in a positive direction – over which a president has little control.

Americans want a clean environment

The American people did not vote for more pollution. In fact, the vast majority of Americans – in red and blue states alike – support clean air, clean energy and climate progress.

They stand with the more than 2,300 scientists who sent an open letter to the incoming administration and 115th Congress, insisting that public policy be “informed by science unfettered by inappropriate political or corporate influence.”

Given the political shifts on both sides of the Atlantic, we may not be able to count on near-term policy to provide the stable playing field we need. That makes corporate leadership more important than ever.

Corporations demand climate action

In November 2016, Doug McMillon of Walmart announced a goal of reducing supply chain emissions by 1 gigaton by 2030 – more than the annual emissions of Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy.

The following month, Smithfield Foods became the first livestock producer to make a commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by 25 percent from their operations, from feed lots to packaged bacon.

There are many other voices in this mighty choir. More than 600 businesses and investors recently called on the U.S. to support the agreement, and a survey found that “across party lines, 69 percent of registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the international agreement to limit global warming.”

We know that abandoning our international climate commitments – to which the Clean Power Plan and our new methane regulations contribute since they reduce greenhouse gas emissions – would hurt America.

Already, Europeans are threatening to tax American goods if we renounce our international climate commitment, while China is looking to out-compete us in the race to a clean energy future.

We will work to help the president-elect – who has said he is studying the issue – see that our national interests will be better served if we keep our climate promises.

Clean energy is winning the race

We need to continue to invest in the economy of the future. The new administration shouldn’t turn back the clock to last century’s dirty energy jobs.

The solar industry is now creating more new jobs than oil and gas extraction and pipeline construction combined. In 2015, it employed 209,000, a number that is expected to double by 2020.

Every big advance in the deployment of energy efficiency is another reduction in carbon emissions.

As the economy shifts, we need to address the impact on coal miners and workers in other declining industries and provide assistance so they’re not left behind. But there’s no question that the jobs of the future will be found in clean energy and energy efficiency.

I look to states such as California, a world leader in clean energy innovation; and to Illinois, where the legislature just approved a law that will help reduce the state’s power plant emissions by more than 50 percent from 2012 levels, and I see templates for success across the country.

Will you help?

In 2017 and in coming years, we will join forces with members in Congress from both parties who are working to defeat attacks against America’s bedrock environmental laws. 

Getting Congress to move is hard, but it’s the best path to a sustainable, comprehensive solution. We must all hold our elected officials accountable by calling for action, win or lose, that will build political power for our cause.

We’ll unite with business leaders, working men and women, young people, and parents from all communities to safeguard the laws that have protected our families and our health for years.

I hope you’ll join me as we defend the environmental standards that are the bipartisan legacy of the past decades.

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