It takes talent and gall to give a speech touting your record on the environment while you’re doing everything in your power to destroy it. It’s much easier to pull this off if you have no shame, like U.S. President Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump’s speech this week boasting about his administration’s environmental bona fides left many in disbelief.
“There has never been a president who has actively pursued an agenda so hostile to the environment and public health at the behest of polluters than Mr. Trump,” Ken Cook, of the U.S.-based Environmental Working Group, told Reuters news agency.
This is difficult to argue with: Mr. Trump appointed a former coal lobbyist to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is now in the process of rolling back many of the climate-change and clean-air regulations brought in by the President’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Those include strict regulations the EPA had placed on tailpipe pollution from automobiles.
He appointed a former oil lobbyist as his Interior Secretary, who is now opening up public lands and water to drilling. In fact, the government is proposing the largest rollback of federal land protections in U.S. history. The President has endorsed allowing offshore drilling for oil and gas along the entire U.S. coastline and has approved exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
In speaking about the environment for almost an hour, Mr. Trump did not once mention the words “climate change,” which he has denounced as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
In all, his administration has repealed more than 80 environmental regulations, including the groundbreaking Clean Power Plan, designed to transition the country off coal to cleaner forms of energy. On the contrary, the President has rewarded important Republican allies and donors by breathing new life into the coal industry.
Not surprisingly, carbon emissions in the U.S. are higher now than when Mr. Trump took office. And once the full impact of his assault on environmental protections is realized, emissions are expected to skyrocket.
Mr. Trump defended his environmental plan by saying it was done with the middle class in mind. “Punishing Americans is never the right way to produce a better environment or a better economy,” he said.
It sounds a lot like the mantra federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has been repeating while he outlines his plans for the environment, which would almost certainly result in emissions rising here as well.
Mr. Scheer has already said he would abandon the federal carbon tax. And this week he doubled down, promising to scrap the government’s clean fuel standard, which he called a “secret fuel tax.” In fact, the policy would impose important fuel benchmarks across sectors, a measure considered vital if the government has any hope of meeting Canada’s commitments under the Paris climate accord.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Scheer has not pledged to meet those targets, saying everyday Canadians who work hard for their money should not be punished in the name of protecting the environment. In fact, the climate plan he recently released contained few specifics but lots of hot air.
Under Mr. Trump, the U.S. has slipped to No. 27 in global environmental rankings from 26th in the last year of Mr. Obama’s mandate. The Environmental Performance Index is a project of Yale and Columbia universities and measures the quality of a country’s air, water and forests, among other areas.
Canada ranks 25th overall but falls dramatically when the index examines specific categories such as climate and energy, which tracks efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants. On this score we plunge to a dismal 137th. When it comes to CO² emissions intensity we are ranked 132nd; air pollution, 110th. (For what it’s worth, China ranks 20th in the area of climate and energy, 38th in emissions intensity and 62nd in air pollution.)
It’s been surmised that Mr. Trump gave his speech because he’s polling poorly on the question of the environment, particularly in Florida, which has been hit hard in recent years with unusual weather that many experts have attributed to climate change.
Before he wrapped things up, he trotted out a bait-and-tackle shop owner from the state to give his blessing to the President’s speech.
“You jumping into this environment brings my heart to warmth,” the man said.
The President smiled serenely as he spoke, no doubt marvelling at his own powers of persuasion.
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