Could Ivanka Trump Save the US Climate Change Agenda?

Much has been said by President Elect Donald Trump about the world in general. What is more concerning to green advocates is his notion that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and his belief that the fossil fuel industry has received a bad shake in recent times.

It might be because Trump believes these things or the fact that he has considerable investment in fossil fuel companies which he naturally wants to protect. Whatever the reason, there is plenty to worry about if you believe in a clean future.

All this could mean dangerous times for the renewables industry particularly if Trump decides to pull back on some of the advances made by the Obama administration. His choice for energy secretary is Rick Perry, the Texas Governor who, when he was running for the nomination to be President, wanted to get rid of the energy department altogether.

According to the New York Times in December:

“In his 2010 book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington,” Mr. Perry called the established science of human-caused climate change a “contrived, phony mess.” His views align with those of Mr. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.”

The good news is that there might be help from someone close to the new President. Ivanka Trump, it seems, is in favour of the green agenda. Of all the characters in the presidential party, Ivanka remains the most liberal in her world view, despite all the scepticism her father has shown over the years.

One big concern is Trump’s pledge to pull out of the COP21 agreement signed by 195 countries in 2015, including the USA. There have been subtle hints that the President may well roll back on his previous comments but his underlying belief that climate change is a hoax is going to be difficult to get over. There’s a possibility that his 35-year-old daughter may embrace green issues as part of her new higher profile and this could impact on how he reacts to this particular problem.

A recent Channel 4 Documentary entitled President Trump’s Dirty Secrets was less upbeat about the future of renewables and climate change. It pointed to the fact that many of Trump’s choices are either climate sceptics or have strong links to the fossil fuel industry. In particular danger is the current Clean Power Plan. When Mike McKenna, who advised Trump on energy, was asked if the transition meant the end of the plan and other initiatives, his reply was fairly unequivocal:

“I would expect that, it doesn’t really matter whether the president-elect withdraws officially or just ignores it, the practical effect is, is the same, right? So, I don’t, I don’t wanna say it’s a dead letter as far as the United States is concerned, but it’s pretty close to a dead letter.”

So, is it really left to the lone figure of Ivanka Trump to save the day when it comes to clean energy and climate change? With Republicans holding sway across much of the US government, there’s little hope that the climate sceptics and oil and coal barons won’t get their way to a good degree. Ivanka Trump may well be a thorn in their side and could champion a greener world but getting her voice heard is still going to be difficult. It will need green advocates across the country, and indeed around the world, to put pressure on the administration to behave.

How this is going to affect the rest of the world is one consideration we are all going to have to face. If the US basically ignores the climate change deal Obama signed and starts more aggressive investment in fossil fuels, where will that leave the rest of us? It’s not inconceivable that sanctions may well be introduced against America and that could have knock on effects not only for future relations between the US and the outside world but also impact on trade and other agreements.

There’s no doubt we are approaching a period of deep uncertainty. Most green advocates hope that the new administration will roll back on their rhetoric in recent times. They may, unfortunately, be hoping for far too much.