Last year the growing impacts of climate change hit the United States hard. Wildfires scorched California and storms pounded the East Coast. The South saw record heat and the Midwest unprecedented flooding.
2019 was the second warmest year on record and the last five years were the warmest five years ever recorded.
2020 is starting off even worse particularly for Australia. Australians are experiencing a humanitarian catastrophic. Wild fires have already scorched nineteen million acres, killed over one billion of their native animals, destroyed over 5,000 homes and killed 30 people.
This should be the moment when governments finally begin urgent efforts to stave off the climate crisis. Unfortunately, that is not the rational response we are getting. In fact, the Australian anti-environmental government seems utterly unmoved, as environmental nightmares become reality.
In the United States we are seeing a similar reality. Instead of President Trump declaring a global climate emergency and calling on Congress to work together to establish an effective national climate strategy to address this crisis, he has continued his destructive actions to weaken our environment regulations. In the past 90 days there are three more shameful examples of these actions:
- On November 4th 2019, President Trump notified the international community that the United States will officially withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. This move will leave the country that is world’s second largest overall emitter of greenhouse gasses abandoning global efforts to combat climate change instead of taking a leadership role to address this global climate crisis.
- On January 9th 2020, President Trump announced his most brazen action yet to reduce environmental regulations on clean air, water and the environment by revising the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revisions to this landmark legislation will impact nearly every major project that receives federal funding: pipelines, power plants, bridges and highways. The new rules would narrow the range of projects that require assessment and impose strict, new and shorter deadlines for completing these studies.
It is important to recall why this legislation was signed into law just over 50 years ago. Demands for greater oversight occurred when an oil tanker spilled three million gallons of crude oil off the coast of Santa Barbara California in 1969. We do not want to turn back the clock to pre-Santa Barbara.
- On New Year’s eve, December 31st 2019 (a day when few people followed the news), President Trump directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to introduce place a new rule that will require renewable energy (solar, wind) and nuclear power to be priced higher in the wholesale electricity market and to be removed from the grid. This decision will ensure that highly polluting energy sources such as coal and natural gas that can bid at a lower price will replace carbon free energy.
This decision will undermine state initiatives to increase renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind as well as nuclear power. It will also result in a consumer rate increase of $2.4 billion dollars per year nationally and cost the utility customers of Illinois a 60% increase in their utility rates.
These actions to weaken environmental regulations, divert accessibility of renewables, and increase pricing on clean renewable energy are just the latest in nearly 100 environmental rollbacks that Trump has announced in the past three years. Some of these include weakening protection for endangered species, lowering limits on the release of the highly potent methane greenhouse gas, loosening offshore drilling safety rules and canceling the automobile emissions standards that were put in place by the Obama administration. Unfortunately, there are many others.
Let’s be honest, prospects for a clean energy future are not looking good currently. However, giving up is not an option. So, what must we do? We must find a path forward.
The Path Forward
As environmentally concerned citizens, we cannot realistically expect to meet the United Nations IPCC targets to reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 45% by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change as long as Donald Trump is president. In November, we must elect a president who is a national and global champion of the environment to address this climate crisis. We must do whatever we can to achieve this objective.
- While Trump has introduced over one
hundred actions that would weaken our environmental regulations, it is
important to note that 70 of these actions have been challenged with lawsuits
in the courts. So far, the Trump Administration has won only four of them.
We fully expect a court challenge on Trump’s announcement to weaken regulations on the National Environmental Policy. We must provide financial assistance whenever possible to the organizations or state agencies that are establishing these lawsuits. Some of these organizations include: Earth Justice, The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and League of Conservation Voters (LCV).
- We have some good news for the people of Illinois on the Trump Administration’s decision to remove renewable energy and nuclear power from the federal grid and by so doing significantly increase renewable energy and nuclear power pricing. We expect the Legislature in Springfield to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in the first quarter of this year. It contains a provision that allows Illinois to establish its own energy grid that will be run by the Illinois IPA. We will no longer be using the federal energy grid and will not be subject to the punitive price increases imposed by Trump on renewable energy and nuclear power. We will not be increasing our energy costs by 60%. We will be reviewing plans to pass this legislation with our elected representatives in the weeks ahead.
- We must continue to stay engaged in monitoring the actions of our national political leaders on environmental actions. We must encourage the development and support of a comprehensive national environmental strategy like “The Green New Deal”.
We also need to challenge our political leaders when they have failed to stand up to the bullying tactics of President Trump, Mitch McConnell and Senator Inhofe who recently rejected the efforts of democratic leaders to include two significant renewable energy initiatives in the National Budget/ Defense Authorization Act for 2020.
- Our primary focus during the coming months will be to get a comprehensive energy strategy passed in Springfield Illinois. We must then work to implement this strategy in the North Suburban communities of Chicago. We have outlined the details of this holistic state environmental strategy in the attached open letter to Governor Pritzker. We will give you more detailed information on how we can all work together in the weeks ahead to make Illinois one of the leading states in making the transformation to clean renewable energy.
- Lawrence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of Black Rock, a $7 trillion investment firm, recently stated that his firm would make investment decisions solely with environmental sustainability as a core goal. In our divestment discussions with large financial banks, such as J. P. Morgan Chase, we will emphasize this important directive from Mr. Fink, as we encourage Chase and other financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels.
CAPA Climate Group
Catherine Buntin and Jack Kelly