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Let’s Get Back to Work: Climate Community Responds to Trump Presidency

cop-22-logoReaction across the global climate community to the reality of a Donald Trump presidency was fast and furious.

Much of the response reinforced the limits on presidential power in shaping U.S. policy—and on the ability of any one country to derail, much less arbitrarily cancel, a binding international agreement that has been ratified by more than 100 countries in less than a year.

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As they sought to understand the election result themselves and explain it to their children, many climate and energy leaders stressed the strength, maturity, and astonishing affordability of technologies that are driving the clean energy revolution, leaving the Trump presidency with a stark choice: Join the party and reap the benefits, or put ideology over science and economics and get left behind.

If he intends to make good on his promise to “make America great again”, Trump’s choice is pretty clear.

Here’s some of the best commentary we’ve seen so far.

‘Trump Can’t Tell Power Producers Which Technologies to Buy’

Bloomberg Gadfly: “President Trump can’t tell producers which power generation technologies to buy. That decision will come down to cost in the end. Right now coal’s losing that battle, while renewables are gaining.”

Even without President Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, “about 60 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity will probably be retired by 2030. On the same basis, renewable capacity would still be expected to grow more than 4% a year until 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, meaning they’d have a 23% share of generation.”

And “even without tax breaks, renewables will probably win out on cost grounds ultimately. Equipment costs are falling and, once installed, producers don’t have to pay to harness the wind or the sun.”

‘The Energy Transition is More and More a Reality’

Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director, Équiterre: “If I retain one thing from yesterday’s election, it is that an impressive number of people voted for Trump even though 60% of them believe that he is not ready to be president. Why did they do this? In many cases, it is because they feel they have been forgotten by the elite in recent years. I am thinking particularly of its coal workers, or the tens of thousands who lost their jobs in the oil sector.

“We now know that the energy transition is becoming more and more a reality, and so I am delighted to see the coal companies fall one after the other, just like with oil companies. But we absolutely have to think about those who will bear the costs of this transition and to ensure that it is done with them, and not on their backs.

“Does Donald Trump’s election represent a step back in the climate and environmental scene? Yes of course! We will have to roll up our sleeves and work harder.

“But you know what? This is not the first time that we’ve seen this movie, or played in this film. Remember George W. Bush! He specifically promised to build one coal plant per week during his first term. During his eight years in the White House, not only did he not manage to build a single one, but 200 were closed under his reign.”

Bend Like a Willow, Be Strong Like an Oak

Karel Mayrand, President, Climate Reality Canada: “Like you, last night I felt sick to my stomach. I felt a strong sense of anxiety for my sleeping children, who also went to bed anxious. What future will we be leaving them?”

But “I need you to know that this new obstacle will not stop us. I need you to hear the truth—that we are millions, that we will not abandon our values of justice and inclusion, or ever stop working to protect all life on Earth.

“The election of Donald Trump and a Congress controlled entirely by the Republican party and the fossil fuel industry is devastating to the fight against climate change. We can expect this new president to quickly approve Keystone XL, get rid of regulations on coal that were central to Obama’s climate plan, and slow down or eliminate investments in renewable energy. We can also expect that he will withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as he can…

“But Trump can’t stop an energy transition that has become inevitable. The most he can do is slow it down. Here’s why:

“Investments in renewable energy have surpassed investments in fossil fuels every year since 2010, and the gap continues to grow. Two times more money was invested in green energy than in fossil fuels in 2015. This transformation is happening because green energy is finally more competitive than fossil fuels in many markets—even without measures to fight climate change…

“From California to New York, American states and cities are putting a price on carbon, investing in renewable energy and in transit. This trend will only continue. China is making similar efforts, recently announcing its intention to lower emissions per unit of GDP by 18 per cent by 2020.

“In the transportation sector, studies show electric vehicles will achieve price parity with gas vehicles in five years, by 2022. EV sales have already increased six-fold since 2014. Analysts say this exponential increase could cause a collapse in gas sales early in the next decade.”

And “the global movement against climate change is not going to stop. Citizen actions, including many acts of non-violent civil disobedience, will continue to become more common all across the United States. This is true in Canada, as well. We need to show solidarity with our American counterparts and with Indigenous people who are bravely defending their land and our collective future…

“What’s at stake is not whether the energy transition will happen. It’s how quickly it will arrive, and whether it will be fast enough…

“It’s in our hands.

“That’s why we cannot give up. Instead, we need to redouble our efforts and create a groundswell. We need to bend like a willow and be as strong as an oak.”