The Donald Trump regime in the United States is stepping up its attacks on clean energy, and emboldening the Australian federal government to do likewise.
Trump has recently appointed Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. In his first interview, Pruitt announced that he would eliminate the Clean Power Plan, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2015. The Clean Power Plan was aimed at reducing the US’s carbon emissions from power generation by 32% by 2030.
The Australian government is in lockstep with these attacks. Josh Frydenberg, minister for environment and energy, likes to spruik the wonders of “clean coal”, an ill-defined term invented by the coal industry to mislead the public. Frydenberg recently declared that he wanted the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to consider investing in coal-fired power stations using this mythical “clean coal”.
Australian Coalition governments have a long history of siding with the US government when it backtracks on taking action on climate change. Last decade, Australia (under John Howard) and the US (under George W Bush) were the only major countries to refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
Australian climate activists have condemned the latest attacks on clean energy in the US. They marked US Presidents’ Day on February 20 by staging a protest in front of the United States Consulate in Melbourne.
The feature act was a local artistic group, the Climate Guardians, who appear at many climate protests. They dress as angels to highlight the threat of climate change. The group attained international prominence during the 2015 Paris Climate Talks with their striking imagery.
Participants at the Melbourne action decried the apparent hijacking of US politics by the fossil fuel industry. Climate Guardians spokesperson Deborah Hart said: “In many ways ‘America First’ really appears to be a Trojan horse for ‘Fossil Fuels first’. “This is highlighted by the rapid scrapping of key environmental protections, the choice of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, despite him having led multiple law suits against the EPA.”