The budget proposal submitted to Congress by President Donald Trump, if enacted, would effectively eliminate the federal government’s role addressing man-made climate change with budget cuts targeting key programs at several federal agencies.
The largest cuts to climate programs by dollar value occur at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but other reductions at the Energy, State and Treasury departments would also harm the ability for the federal government to combat global warming. Considered together, the reductions deal a blow to domestic greenhouse gas reduction efforts, clean energy development and international diplomacy centered on climate change.
“We’re not spending money on that anymore,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said during a press conference on Thursday. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”
Trump’s proposal to cut the EPA budget by 31% requires cuts across the board, but the President would like to lean heavily on climate programs to achieve that figure. Some programs, like the Clean Power Plan implementation, would be cut entirely. The Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s chief climate change initiative, would require states to implement plans to transition away from coal-fired power plants. Trump is widely expected to sign an executive order calling for the EPA to reevaluate and, presumably, roll back the initiative.
U.S. efforts to work collaboratively with other countries partners would also suffer under the budget. President Obama created the Global Climate Change Initiative to help developing countries implement programs to combat global warming. The program, a collaboration between the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), encourages communities around the globe to develop with minimal greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.
The program fights climate change directly, but also gives the U.S. leverage in international climate discussions. Developing countries were encouraged to come to the table to reach last year’s Paris Agreement at least in part because of funding commitments from countries like the U.S. Trump’s election has already led several G-20 countries to step back from those pledges. Beyond addressing warming, U.S. leadership on climate change has served as a lynchpin in easing relations with places like China.
“Cutting funding from the State Department’s critical climate programs hurts America diplomatically,” says Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp in a statement. “The rest of the world understands that climate change isn’t a hoax. The U.S. risks falling farther behind.”
Clean energy research programs would also suffer under the Trump budget. A program known as ARPA-E that funds early stage energy research unlikely to win private dollars would be eliminated entirely despite bipartisan support. The budget also suggests a $2 billion cut to the agency’s other research offices but does not provide specifics for how such a reduction would be achieved.
The budget has been met with horror by environmental groups dedicated to fighting climate change and received a tepid response in the GOP-controlled Congress. But eliminating the federal government’s role addressing climate change is exactly what many of his most ardent supporters wanted wanted.
“The Trump budget offers a much-needed resetting of the relationship between the federal government, the states and the American people,” says Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, which has been linked to the Koch Brothers. The cuts “eliminate the architecture of President Obama’s politically motivated climate action plan.”
But the President’s proposed budget remains just that—a proposal. And many in Congress, including Republicans, have already suggested that they do not agree with some of the cuts. “The president has suggested a budget,” says GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee in a statement. “But, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills.”
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