Where Does The US Stand In Terms of Climate Change Policies?

The artic is melting, Australia has been ravaged by deadly wildfires and the world has been suffering the effects of climate change for some time now. For years, scientists have been warning us about what could happen if we don’t do something to appease climate change made even worse by global warming.  

It is no secret the position Donald Trump has taken on climate change after calling it a “hoax” and a “big scam”, and this position has resulted in his administration making decisions that cause rollbacks in climate policies. Here are some of the most consequential ones.

Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement 

On November 2019, Trump’s administration officially announced to the United Nations that it would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the first truly global commitment to fight the climate crisis. In 2015, nearly 200 countries and the European Union signed on to this agreement. 

The Paris Agreement was successful because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and which strategies to adopt in order to reach them. Moreover, nations recognized that fighting climate change can bring significant socio-economic results.

The US President’s decision to pull out of the agreement sent a clear message that they would not be leading this global fight against climate change. And even though no other country has followed Trump’s decision, a few have toughened their emission-reduction targets. In addition, a report found that “Trump’s decision has made it easier for other countries to renege on their climate commitments.”

However, whether or not America participates in the agreement depends on the outcome of the 2020 election but still, supporters of the pact have to start planning for a future without American cooperation. 

Loosening restrictions on methane emissions 

Last August, Trump’s administration laid out its plan to cut back on the regulation of methane emissions, one of the biggest contributors to climate change greenhouse gases, and announced that they would “no longer require oil and gas companies to install monitors that detect methane leaks from new wells, tanks and pipelines.”  

This move is significant, since the US is the world’s biggest natural gas and oil producer and even though methane doesn’t last in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide (CO2), one ton of methane has 84 to 87 times more global warming potential than the same amount of CO2 over a 20-year period. This means that methane comes second after carbon dioxide as the most significant greenhouse gases, making up for nearly 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States mostly coming from the oil and gas industry. 

Since President Trump’s earliest days in the office, the Obama administration has been targeted, including its methane regulation. The new methane rule would replace the one from the Obama administration as a response to President Trump’s calls to trim regulations that impede economic growth. 

In 2018, the National Climate Assessment concluded that the worsening of wildfires, crop failures, among other things, were increased by global warming caused by greenhouse gases. Some of the biggest oil and gas companies have called on the Trump administration to strengthen the methane restrictions rather than loosen them.

The Affordable Clean Energy rule 

In 2015, Obama’s administration launched the Clean Power Plan, which placed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. According to Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this plan would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions from power generators by 32% compared with 2005 by 2030. 

Trump’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan is called the Affordable Clean Energy rule and it does not longer place limits on carbon dioxide emissions but instead allows states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants. This could have serious repercussions in people’s health and the planet. 

Current EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler promoted the plan stating that it gives power companies “the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide affordable and reliable energy for all Americans.” However, many states and cities are suing in order to get these new regulations blocked from going into effect since Trump’s new rule could cause over 1,400 premature deaths by 2030 and it could also cost American lives.

These examples are only to mention some. But it seems that Trump’s rhetoric has shifted. This week, he talked climate change saying “nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject.” Does this mean that Trump suddenly became worried about climate change and global warming and its impact on people’s health and economy or could it be just a strategy to win this year’s polls?

Donald Trump’s record on climate change makes him politically vulnerable, that’s a fact and if his rhetoric on climate change is shifting, it’s because he senses the politics are now different. In order to be re-elected, the President needs to win Florida, a state on the front line of climate impacts and where the majority of its residents understand the impacts of climate change. Trump has recently even moved officially to Florida and launched his campaign there. 

Each day, more and more states beside Florida are waking up to the reality of this climate crisis and are starting to prioritize the issue. They demand to the authorities to tackle this crisis with adequate climate policies. Despite his administration making systemic attacks on the air, water and public health for the past three years, the truth is that Donald Trump is the president after all, and he can take real action starting now. 

Blackrock Goes Green?

World’s Largest Investment Company Changes to Sustainable Policies.

  BlackRock is an American global investment management company based in New York City. It was founded in 1988 by Larry Fink, current president and CEO and Robert Kapito, also president of the company. BlackRock is considered to be the largest asset management company in the world, and it is one of the most influential financial groups on Wall Street and Washington. 

The company functions by investing its assets in equity strategies, cash management, alternative investments and real estate strategies and through BlackRock SolutionsÆ they offer risk management services, strategic advice and their own investment systems to a wide client base whose portfolios total around eight billion dollars. 

BlackRock has presented itself as a sustainable investor, however, reports have shown that the company is in fact, the world’s largest investor in coal plant developers with shares worth around $11 billion among 56 coal plant developers. With global warming increasing at dangerous rates these last few years, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Amazon Watch called out BlackRock by launching a campaign called “BlackRock’s Big Problem” in September 2018. This campaign stated that Blackrock “is the biggest driver of climate destruction on the planet”.

Another report showed that BlackRock owns more oil, gas, and thermal coal reserves than any other investor with 30 percent of total energy-related emissions from 2017, due in part to the company’s refusal to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Last year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released a report that estimated that BlackRock had lost investors worth $90 billion over the past decade due to poor performing investments in fossil fuel companies.

Recently, BlackRock announced that sustainability will be their new investment standard through a letter on the official website. “In recent years, an increasing number of our clients have focused on the impact of sustainability in their investment portfolios. […] The most significant of these factors relate to climate change, not only in terms of the physical risk associated with rising global temperatures but also in the risk of transition – mainly in how the global transition to a low-carbon economy could affect the long-term profitability of a company.” 

Moreover, an open letter to BlackRock’s clients was released alongside with a series of changes the company will make to put sustainability at the center of its investment approach.  These changes include increasing the number of sustainable funds it offers, removing some coal companies from its active funds and being more transparent over its engagement and voting at investee companies.

“As your fiduciary, BlackRock is committed to helping you navigate this transition and build more resilient portfolios, and this includes seeking higher and more stable long-term returns. Because sustainable investment options have the potential to offer better results to costumers, we are making sustainability an integral element in how BlackRock manages risk, build portfolios, design products and interact with companies. We believe that sustainability should be the new investment standard.” 

Earlier in January, after the increasing pressure from activists, the US investment firm joined Climate Action 100+, a group of more than 370 investment managers with a total of $41 trillion in assets and who seeks for companies whose businesses exacerbate climate change to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. 

There has been some controversy since BlackRock, who manages assets from BP, Shell and Exxon Mobile, has voted against various resolutions brought by Climate Action 100+ and this has increased the backlash and accusations against the company. Regardless, the fact that they are now signed onto Climate Action 100+ could mean a change in the company to finally stop being behind holding the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases accountable.

“In joining CA100+, BlackRock is responding to the demands of its asset-owner clients and other groups globally that they take meaningful action to address climate change,” Fiona Reynolds, chief executive of UN-backed investment group Principles for Responsible Investment said in a statement.

The fact that the world’s biggest investment corporation is joining forces with a company whose mission is to get other powerful companies to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions could be an important step towards persuading other companies to join as well and together help decrease the acceleration of global warming and climate change.

“BlackRock’s initiatives match the size of the crisis we are currently seeing. Making climate change the number one priority in their business is the way every company must respond to this planetary emergency” expressed Diana Best, senior strategist of Sunrise Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to gather other companies to fight for climate change.