On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to roll back environmental regulations and restore the US government’s “climate agenda” that was set to be a key part of his administration’s global environmental agenda.
The order rescinded the Obama-era climate action plan, which was signed into law in February 2016, and replaced it with a “compromise” plan that will “ensure that the US remains an international leader in promoting a strong and stable global environment”.
Under the plan, the US will maintain a “carbon intensity” cap of 40 percent above 1990 levels by 2025 and a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels over the same period.
The new executive order has drawn criticism from environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resource Defense Council of Texas, which argues the “compromising” plan does not go far enough to reduce emissions.
The New York Times described the executive order as “the biggest and most ambitious effort by the Trump administration to dismantle the climate action programme” that would have required the US to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by about 26% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.
“The plan calls for a dramatic reduction in emissions by 30% over the next five years compared to the baseline, while leaving the remaining 27% of emissions unchanged,” it said.
“This is the worst climate deal ever proposed by any administration and will have devastating consequences for US climate leadership and economic prosperity.”
Critics of the order have also decried the “snowflake” approach of the administration.
“As climate deniers, we will continue to stand up for our communities, our country and our economy,” said NRDC director of climate and energy policy Erik Monacelli.
“We have to hold this administration accountable for their disastrous actions on climate and for their continued efforts to weaken our nation’s economy and create new fossil fuel-based jobs in their name.”
Environmentalists are also divided on the new executive action, with some calling it a “lame duck” and others calling it “a huge breakthrough”.
“This is an historic step forward for the US on climate, and a big step forward in terms of reversing the climate disaster of President Trump’s first 100 days,” said Chris Horner, president of the Natural Gas Action Network.
“This order will bring our nation one step closer to the 100% clean energy economy and to having the greatest climate leadership the US has ever seen.
It is an enormous win for Americans and a tremendous win for the world.”
Critics say the new order fails to meet the “international standard” of protecting the climate.
“I think this is a very bad idea,” said Richard Vedder, president and CEO of the Sierra Club, in a statement.
“It is a slap in the face to the world, to the American people and to the US EPA and its mission to protect the environment.”
“This will have no impact on the existing rules or regulations in place in the US, and it will create a huge loophole that will allow fossil fuel companies to cheat on their emissions and get away with it,” he added.
“If this is what the Trump Administration wants to do, we must take this as a wake-up call.”
The White House said the order would not impact existing or proposed EPA regulations and that it will take “steps to implement” them “immediately”.
The executive order was also met with a backlash from environmental advocates.
“Climate change is real and it is caused by humans,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Nature Conservancy.
“President Trump’s order will do nothing to prevent the devastating impacts of climate change on the US and our families.”
“Our planet is in desperate need of urgent action, and President Trump is failing on that front,” Graves said.