Trump to sweep away Obama climate change policies

A coal miner worker shakes hands with President Donald Trump (16 February 2017)Image copyright

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The president says the object of his changes is to boost economic growth and stimulate job creation

US President Donald Trump is due to sign an executive order to overturn key parts of the Obama administration’s plan to tackle global warming.

The move will undo the Clean Power Plan which required states to slash carbon emissions.

The executive order also cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. Regulations on oil, gas and coal production are to be reviewed.

Mr Trump has promised to remove green rules which he says hurt the economy

During the campaign, he vowed to pull the US out of the Paris climate deal agreed in December 2015.

The White House said the new measures would “help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation”.

But environmental groups warn that they will have serious consequences at home and abroad.

What is Mr Trump’s order changing?

President Trump takes a very different approach to the environment from Mr Obama. The former president argued that climate change was “real and cannot be ignored”.

The Clean Power Plan sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants to meet US commitments under the Paris accord.

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Mr Trump says that the US will no longer wage war on coal

The regulation has been unpopular in Republican-run states, where it has been subjected to legal challenges – especially from businesses that rely on burning oil, coal and gas.

Last year the Supreme Court temporarily halted the plan, while the challenges are heard.

The Trump administration says that scrapping the plan will put people to work and reduce America’s reliance on imported fuel.

It says the president will be “moving forward on energy production in the US”.

“The previous administration devalued workers with their policies. We can protect the environment while providing people with work.”

The president also intends to slash funding of the Environmental Protection Agency by a third. He recently appointed climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt as its new head.

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What will the impact be?

Matt McGrath, BBC environment correspondent

This order signed by President Trump is both a practical and a philosophical attempt to change the US narrative on climate change.

His supporters say it will create thousands of jobs in the liberated oil and gas industries. His opponents agree the new order will be a job creator – but they’ll be jobs for lawyers, not in the coal fields.

Front and centre is practical action on the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama project to cut fossil fuels from energy production. Although it has long been tied up in the courts, the new administration will leave it to fester there while they come up with a much weaker replacement.

There will also be new, less restrictive rules on methane emissions from the oil and industry and more freedom to sell coal leases from federal lands.

President Trump is signalling a significant change in the widely-held philosophy that CO2 is the enemy, the main driver of climate change.

US environmentalists are aghast but also enraged. They will be queuing up to go to court. But in many ways that’s playing into the hands of President Trump and the fossil fuel lobby.

“Delay is what they want,” one green source told me, “delay is winning.”

Will the US honour its commitments under the Paris climate deal?

While campaigning for the presidency, Mr Trump argued that the agreement was unfair to the US.

The landmark agreement commits governments to moving their economies away from fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions to try to contain global temperature rise.

Mr Trump has in the past said climate change had been “created by and for the Chinese”.

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Reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants was a key part of America’s commitment in the Paris climate deal

But at the end of last year, he acknowledged that there was “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.

It is now unclear where exactly the US stands in relation to the deal.

Whatever the US chooses, the EU, India and China say they will stick to their pledges made in Paris.

What has been the reaction?

The president’s order will be resisted by environmentalists, who have promised to challenge it in the courts.

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Campaigning groups are scathing of the president’s environment policies

“These actions are an assault on American values and they endanger the health, safety and prosperity of every American,” billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Another green group, Earthjustice, said it would challenge the order in and out of court.

“This order ignores the law and scientific reality,” its President Trip Van Noppen said.

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