Sustainable Energy

Trump’s Budget Would Mean Catastrophe for U.S. Climate Programs

The cuts would defang EPA climate efforts, halt ARPA-E’s clean-energy investments, and stop contributions to UN climate-change programs.

The Trump administration has published its first detailed budget, and as expected, it signals bad news for the planet.

The proposed cuts to discretionary spending in the 2018 fiscal year still require congressional approval. But if enacted they would totally shut down the clean-energy investment arm of the Department of Energy, halt payments to UN climate-change programs, close down many of the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate programs, and terminate climate-focused initiatives at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The budget proposes to cut funding for the Department of Energy by 5.6 percent, to $28 billion. To achieve that, it would, as feared, completely shutter the activities of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which currently invests in clean-energy moonshots. It would also rein in programs where the department works with industry to commercialize its own research, and instead have it focus on basic science.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, the budget would be slashed by 31 percent, to $5.7 billion. The reductions would cut over 50 EPA programs, many of which relate to climate change—again, as anticipated. The Clean Power Plan would be discontinued, as would the agency’s international climate-change programs and its climate-change research and partnership programs.

At NASA, some Earth-monitoring science missions are due to be axed. These include PACE, which monitors ocean and atmospheric changes related to climate change; OCO-3, which measures the distribution of carbon dioxide on Earth; and DSCOVR, which collects data on Earth’s atmosphere and solar winds. At NOAA, programs supporting coastal and marine management, including those intended to help communities prepare for climate change, would be killed.

And then there’s a final doozy. The budget says that the administration would “cease payments to the United Nations’ climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.” The Green Climate Fund was established so that rich countries could help poorer nations prepare for climate change and adopt cleaner technologies. Just days before President Obama left power, the U.S. made a $500 million payment to the fund.

All told, then, the budget would cut many of the elements central to America’s commitment to slowing climate change. It would hinder the U.S. from meeting the pledges it made as part of the Paris climate agreement, and stop it from helping people around the globe to keep up their end of the deal. The only hope for the climate is that Congress values those commitments more than Donald Trump does.

(Read more: America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, “How Much Damage Could Scott Pruitt Really Do at EPA?,” “Will ARPA-E Survive Trump’s Looming Budget Cuts?,” “The Paris Climate Pact Is in Effect, but It’s Not Enough”)

Hear more about clean energy at EmTech MIT 2017.

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