THE GREEN FACTOR
Hopes for a Democrat landslide have evaporated as a close race continues to offer both Donald Trump and Joe Biden hope of victory
The US will today formally exit the Paris Agreement, as an agonizingly tight election race provides the most dramatic of backdrops.
Regardless of the eventual result of a race that remains too close to call, the US is – by complete coincidence – scheduled to leave the global accord today, following the Trump administration’s decision to serve the UNFCCC climate secretariat notice last November that it would leave the agreement. Under the rules of the Paris deal, any country wanting to withdraw had to wait three years from November 4, 2016 – the date the accord formally came into effect.
However, the US could re-enter the accord as early as January if Joe Biden wins what remains an extremely tight race and delivers on his plan to immediately issue an executive order returning the country to the agreement.
Speaking earlier today, the Democrat candidate said his campaign believes “we’re on track to win this election”, adding that “we feel good about where we are”.
Polls and early vote counts in a number of key battleground states in the Midwest suggest Biden’s optimism remains well-founded, but hopes of a Democrat landslide receded fast overnight as President Trump held major states such as Florida and Texas to keep his hopes of a shock victory alive.
At 7am UK time, Biden had won 224 electoral college votes to Trump’s 213, with both candidates still in with a shout of securing the 270 votes required for victory, depending on the yet to be declared result of extremely close races in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
As many analysts feared, the eventual result could now hinge on postal votes that Trump has argued – without any foundation – could be the subject of electoral fraud. Those votes are expected to trend towards the Democrats, cementing the early narrow lead Biden appears to be enjoying in the critical Midwest swing states.
But writing on Twitter early this morning, Trump declared: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed.” Twitter immediately flagged the tweet as disputed or possibly misleading.
The President is now set to give a speech this morning – before the final results are confirmed – where he is widely expected to insist he is on course for victory. As such the stage is set for days of recounts, legal challenges, and growing fears of civil unrest.
The absence of a clear early result also leaves the future direction of US climate and clean energy policy shrouded in uncertainty.
A raft of Congressional and Senate races across the country are also proving to be closer than the polls suggested, with Republicans now confident they could retain their majority in the Senate and stem further losses in the House. Consequently, even if Biden does make it to the White House fears are growing that his green legislative agenda could be stymied by Republican opposition on Capitol Hill.
Moreover, while exit polls showed overwhelming public support for bolder climate action and more investment in green infrastructure, the failure to deliver a Democrat landslide and an increase in the number of votes won by Trump as turnout increased nationally means there has been no repudiation of Trump-ism and its climate sceptic refusal to take steps to tackle escalating climate threats.
However, hopes remain that Biden could still edge the race, providing him with the opportunity to swiftly re-enter the Paris Agreement; submit a new climate action plan to the UN centred on his campaign pledge to deliver net zero emissions by 2050; work with Capitol Hill to deliver a green coronavirus recovery package; and build on President Obama’s approach of issuing executive orders that serve to drive clean infrastructure investment without necessarily requiring bipartisan Congressional support.
Meanwhile, experts remain divided on the implications for the green economy of a Trump victory. On the one hand, many analysts are confident that a President who failed to halt the decline in US coal power or block the continued the deployment of clean technologies would have negligible impact on the continued downward trend for US emissions during his second term, especially given he would have to work with a still divided Congress. On the other hand, fears remain that Trump would use a second term to continue to roll back crucial environmental protections and would prove even more assertive in attempting to slow the deployment of clean technologies, while continuing to stoke opposition to climate action amongsthis base.
Equally, the rubberstamping of his decision to quit the Paris Agreement will inevitably fuel concerns that other governments that are hostile to the accord’s decarbonisation agenda could step up efforts to undermine the treaty.
Speaking last week, Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in the US and former CEO of NGO Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), acknowledged a second Trump term would likely result in big missed opportunities for the US to catch the crest of the global green economic wave. But she insisted a Trump White House would struggle to significantly dilute market forcs that are now working firmly in favour of clean technologies globally.
“I think we’re at tipping points now in terms of where capital is going, and we’re at tipping points in terms of where young people want to work, so the front-end of the energy transition is just going to go faster,” she said during an event hosted by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) think tank. “And so the question then for the Trump administration is do you try and hold back the tide, or do you find things within [the clean energy transition] that should be important to a fiscally responsible conservative government?”
Her comments were echoed by Peter Betts, associate fellow for the energy, environment, and resources programme at Chatham House, who argued recent moves by China, Japan, the EU, and South Korea to adopt net zero goals provided confidence that the broad coalition in support of the Paris Agreement would remain in tact regardless of the US election result. “The real economy shifts are absolutely huge,” he said. “It’s not just renewable energy being cheaper than fossil fuels in most parts of the world, electric vehicles are going to be cheaper even on a full life cost basis than internal combustion engines in the next few years . This change is irreversible. It’s inevitable.”
Source: businessgreen.com rss-feed
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