Trump unveils US department of environment

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Rex Tillerson replaces Lisa Jackson as the head of the White House’s new Office of Clean Air and Climate Change

US President Donald Trump has unveiled plans to create a new Department of Environment.

He said it would replace the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “pursue cost-effective solutions to restoring America’s climate and air quality”.

The move is part of Trump’s plan to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed in 2015.

The US currently contributes about 11% of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than any other country.

Under the Paris Agreement, which has more than 190 signatories, countries are committed to limits on the rise in global temperatures.

Trump’s current EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, said the Department of Environment would “return authority to the states”.

“[They will] regulate and streamline their permitting process to create jobs for American workers and better protect our environment and our communities,” he said.

What is the Paris Agreement?

At a United Nations summit in Paris in December 2015, world leaders signed a landmark climate deal.

Parties agreed that global greenhouse-gas emissions should peak as soon as possible and then begin to decline “as soon as possible” in order to avoid dangerous levels of warming.

Scientists warn that, if current emissions trends continue, average global temperatures are likely to rise by between about 2C and 3C by the end of the century, threatening ecosystems and the stability of many living systems.

Developing countries also agreed to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement works by limiting global temperature rises to 2C above pre-industrial levels.

How could this impact on UK trade?

After the announcement from Trump, the UK’s government welcomed the move.

“The UK remains strongly committed to tackling climate change and is determined to bring new, clean technologies and financial systems to boost green jobs and growth,” said a spokeswoman.

Image caption Global carbon emissions are going down, report says

But the Department for International Trade also pointed out that if the US leaves the Paris Agreement it would be without a number of essential provisions relating to international trade, potentially hampering future deals.

“The UK and the US need to make sure that they know what they’re getting if they are going to agree a treaty because if they can’t then obviously I wouldn’t expect that to happen,” said Matt Sheppard, a trade law expert at Mishcon de Reya.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The US’s stance on climate change has been opposed by a number of US states, including Texas and Colorado

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, some cities and states had already begun to look at ways to engage with other countries in an effort to combat climate change.

In May, the cities of Santa Fe and Hoboken in New Mexico and Seattle, Washington, announced plans to form a coalition to support the Paris Agreement.

To date, 17 states, cities and businesses have committed to upholding the Paris Agreement even if the US Congress refuses to pass climate legislation.

‘More choices’

It’s also unclear if US politicians will want to continue making their own environmental rules.

“Some people already believe that the EPA has lost the power to regulate, that the states have won, and that this administration and Congress will not pass clean air, clean water, clean air quality standards,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the World Resources Institute.

“It’s not clear if this strategy will fare any better. Some states will continue to build on their domestic market conditions or pursue strategies that don’t require state action.”

The US has already seen some smaller-scale initiatives that could still be implemented if the country fails to pursue the Paris Agreement.

Sydney has been working on its own carbon trading scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since 2009.

New York City has teamed up with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation to look at new ways to reduce emissions.

Philadelphia is also exploring an ambitious plan to reduce emissions, partly by installing new bicycle parking near subway stations.

Despite Trump’s efforts to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, academics in the US believe it’s too early to judge whether the world could soon see a new paradigm for international climate policy.

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