President Trump + Article 50 and the Possible Implications for the Environment.

It was June of 2016 when the UK shocked the world in a colossal move that saw the country end a relationship that had been sustained since 1970 by voting herself out of the European Union.

A European Union flag is waved in front of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London

The Brexit decision was campaigned for primarily based on better immigration control and redistribution of statutory EU contribution towards better-funded healthcare and more flexible structuring of national trade deals. While these do not seem like the most unreasonable reasons for the UK seeking to leave the EU, especially with the political situation with Scotland, it however leaves to curiosity why the two parties could find no other way to cater to the concerns of the British while retaining their status as a member state of the Union. The move had the immediate effects of huge monetary running into hundreds of billions of pounds; sums the size of GPDs of entire countries as well as initiating a period of geopolitical and socioeconomic uncertainty between the UK and her allies both regionally and on the wider frame. Triggering “Article 50” sets in motion what is being argued to be an irreversible exit from the Union and the direction the UK is headed.

The laws created by member states of the EU take precedence over locally propounded legislation. Many of these laws relate directly or otherwise to the environment, and their strict enforcement has been responsible for the progress made in Western Europe regarding environmental protection and examples include the ambient air quality Directive (2008/50/EC) and NOx emission directive (91/441/EC). Laws and regulations regarding the environment still exist on a local level in the UK; however, research suggests that environmental and economic progress share an inverse relationship where one prospers while the other suffers. However, while issues with economic stability will continue to persist at least until the UK finds her place in this new world, it would be expected that some of the environmental regulations would be quietly relaxed in favour of increased industrial activity. Regarding air quality as a palpable instance where the UK spends around £10bn annually on curbing pollution, less stringent standards would come as an obvious means of making quick savings on budgets and meeting reduction targets.

Concerning the UK’s commitment to the use of renewable energy for transport fuel and heating and the 30% total adoption target set by the EU with a compliance year set at 2030, the UK certainly stands in a good position to achieve this goal before the set deadline as they already generate around 20% of their energy from renewable sources. This is one plan concerning the environment that Brexit will not affect – not from this standpoint.

On recycling, progress in the UK continues quite slowly in England while Wales and Scotland have recycling targets set even stricter than those of the EU. However, as most of the population of the UK resides in England, targets and regulations on recycling will remain a concern and might be relaxed with recyclable resources being put at the risk of use as incineration/waste to energy fuels. In all, somewhere between longer extension of deadlines and reduction of relaxed recycling targets are to be expected from the UK.

On the aspect of continental trading with the EU however, it should be expected that with respect to environmental policy, Britain will be held to the same standards as other potential trading partners/member states and this will be a primary determining factor on just how lax the UK can afford to get with her environmental policies. This could imply that at the very worst, the UK may have to consider developing better markets for her exports if she is unable to meet environmental requirements that guide dealing within the EU or settle for lesser profitable deals for the time being. For countrie who depend on UK aid, it would be advisable to get ready for tough few years ahead.

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On the US side of things, in one of the most unexpected twists in recent history; November came and we got President Donald .J Trump. Donald whose time in the political limelight has been marked by fuelling a campaign rhetoric filled with virtually every social faux pas existing today; Donald who believes climate change is a construct of the Chinese, who intend to use it as a tool to destroy American industries; Donald who intends to destroy ISIS by “bombing their families”; Donald the billionaire business mogul who has gone bankrupt six good times; Donald J. Trump.

In his first few months of being in office, President Trump stated that his concerns as far as the US and the environment was concerned was about keeping the regional air and water clean; having no worries about responsibility towards the US impact on the global environment. He appointed as the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, a man named Scott Pruitt; a seasoned scientist who in face of so much evidence providing otherwise, believes that the primary chemical driver behind global warming is not CO2. While disagreements are not out of place in the sciences, when the heads of government of a country who sponsors one of the world’s foremost climatic monitoring agencies through NASA for one, disagree with the billions of dollars’ worth of scientific research and monitoring equipment that have provided so much information on our relationship with the earth, favouring “gut feelings” instead; well that’s just bad business.

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In no uncertain terms, the Trump administration has all but categorically stated its intent to undermine what it has referred to as “achievements” of the immediate past Obama administration; an unfortunate “anything but Obama” sentiment mirrored by a lot of Americans. The utter disregard for Climate Change prevention policies instituted by the Obama administration has been reflected in acts such as: President Trump’s decision to unhinge existing industry regulations for carmakers through which they have been charged with increasing fuel efficiency and sustaining continuous improvements of motor vehicles manufactured in the US with an aim of reducing CO2 emissions. In addition, President Trump has recently approved the $8bn, 830,000 barrel per day capacity Keystone XL oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico after being put off by Obama owing to a commitment to reduce the US’ CO2 emissions. The Donald has made his intent clear; forget everything else, if it makes money, it makes sense. This unfortunately is going to be a statement or a line of thought that will be reflected quite often for at least the next 4 years. The Obama administration saw a more than 200% increase in the growth of renewable energy in America; literally the day after he took office, Donald repeals Obama’s anti coal mining restrictions opening another avenue for more American carbon emissions. The Obama administration succeeded in reducing US carbon emissions from over 6 million tonnes in 2008 to just under 5 million by 2016 bring it down from being the country with the highest CO2 emission volume in the world to being third behind India and China. The coming of President Trump will set this progress back by nothing less than 15 years on an arithmetic scale; on a geometric scale on the other hand, we can only hope that Americans care a bit about long-term survival than their government seems to be indicating.

On “fracking”, the “revolutionary” method of oil and gas extraction developed and massively deployed by the US in recent times, this would be a major test of President Trump’s resolve to keep the US the land, air and water resources clean as incidences of land contamination due irresponsible dumping of fracking waste, oil spills and the release of raw methane gas into the atmosphere continue to rise. it should be noted that although the US president has stated his resolve to keep the US clean, the impending losses of jobs and revenue for which he is so concerned is likely to give this debate a very familiar twist.

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On an industrial scale of a the US and the UK combined, and their interests in a large share of global multinational corporations, issues with increased emissions might be more than just regional issues and spread to the countries in which these corporations operate. Hopefully, the signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement on the reduction of carbon emissions by both countries help limit the prospects of irresponsibility towards climate change and the environment at large. However, while this might not especially be a cause for worry on the part of the English – they are really smart people; Brexit must have been a momentary lapse in judgement, it will not come as surprise if the Americans on the other hand pull out of the convention by 2019.

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In conclusion, the short-term prospects for the UK would see expectations on environmental standards slip temporarily while they re-strategize towards a new era of financial stability. For the Americans, especially as they continue to endure more flooding around the seaboards, blizzards, droughts around the more tropical and arid regions like Texas and California and longer period of heatwaves are not effects of climate change and for the good of the world we have to hope that President Trump will surprise us in a good way.

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