Regulations to fight climate change likely will be casualties of the incoming Trump administration, but environmental experts taking stock of the changing American political landscape said that work in the field will continue elsewhere and that a broad-based rollback of U.S. environmental protection will prove easier said than done.
Though President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t yet announced an environmental agenda, his campaign claim that climate change is an expensive hoax, his blanket support for the fossil fuel industry, and his criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have environmentalists worried.
In addition, Republicans have majorities in the House and Senate, and they generally believe that environmental regulations can harm economic growth and improperly extend the reach of government. So environmentalists foresee a broad attack on the nation’s framework of environmental regulations.
Still, Harvard environmental experts forecast a complex mosaic for the years ahead, one that has problems and likely is rife with litigation, but that also continues momentum toward a cleaner world because of a combination of market forces, economic factors, and continued efforts by other nations, states, and local governments.
“Trump could unilaterally withdraw from the Paris Agreement, renouncing U.S. leadership on international climate negotiations. And he could try to rescind or weaken some important regulations, like the Clean Power Plan,” said Jody Freeman, the Archibald Cox Professor of Law and director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program. “But any effort to fully unravel the substantial and meaningful regulatory initiatives of the last eight years will be long, complicated, and difficult, and in the end likely only partial because of the significant legal, political, and practical barriers to doing so.”