By Mark Elder and Augustine Kwan
Global, January 22, 2017
As the world celebrated the Paris Agreement’s quick entry into force just before the Marrakech Climate Conference in November 2016, the results of the US presidential election raised serious questions about the future of US climate policy. During the election campaign, President-elect Donald J. Trump called climate change a “hoax” and promised to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. He also appointed a leading climate denier to head the environment transition team to oversee the selection of political appointees to manage the US Environmental Protection Agency, and former high-level EPA officials from the George W. Bush administration are being considered to return to lead the Agency.1 At the Marrakech Conference, many countries became concerned about possible reversals in US climate policies but strongly expressed their expectations for the US to live up to its commitments.
This briefing note surveys early hints and speculations regarding the Trump Administration’s possible climate policies and personnel appointments, and discusses them in the context of the surrounding domestic political context and institutional decision-making processes. A few areas for cautious optimism are identified and obstacles to the potential worst-case scenarios are highlighted. Despite the discouraging statements during the campaign and appointment of members of the transition team, it is too early to tell the precise direction of Trump administration policies, which may not be fully known even to Trump himself. Nevertheless, this briefing note concludes that even in the worst case, there are still various limitations on how far and how fast US climate policy and actions could be set back.