President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an order to undo Obama-era regulations to curb climate change, keeping a campaign promise to support the coal industry while calling into question US support for an international deal to fight global warming. A move meant to bolster domestic energy production and create jobs, but environmentalists say the order is dangerous and vow to challenge it in court.
The order’s main target is former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a key factor in the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under a climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.
“I am taking historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Mr Trump said at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, speaking on a stage lined with coal miners.
“I cannot tell you how many jobs the executive order is going to create, but I can tell you that it provides confidence in this administration’s commitment to the coal industry,” according to Kentucky Coal Association president Tyler White.
The so-called Energy Independence order also reverses a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, undoes rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production, and reduces the weight of climate change and carbon emissions in policy and infrastructure-permitting decisions.
The wide-ranging order is the boldest yet in Trump’s broader push to cut environmental regulation to revive the drilling and mining industries, a promise he made repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Environmental groups hurled scorn at Mr Trump’s order, arguing it is reckless,dangerous and goes against the broader global trend toward cleaner energy technologies.Energy analysts and executives have questioned whether the moves will have a big effect on their industries.
“These actions are an assault on American values and they endanger the health, safety and prosperity of every American,” said billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, the head of activist group NextGen Climate.
An overwhelming majority of scientists believe that human use of oil and coal for energy is a main driver of climate change, causing a damaging rise in sea levels, droughts, and more frequent violent storms.
Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change who helped broker the Paris accord, lamented Mr. Trump’s order.
“Trying to make fossil fuels remain competitive in the face of a booming clean renewable power sector, with the clean air and plentiful jobs it continues to generate, is going against the flow of economics,” she said.
Green group Earthjustice was one of many organisations that said it would fight the order both in and out of court.