TREE-T YOURSELF: President Trump on Tuesday announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative launched at the World Economic Forum as world leaders seek to combat climate change.
Trump made the announcement during an address to global business leaders gathered for the annual event in Davos, Switzerland.
“We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. “will continue to show strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests.
The announcement that the U.S. will join the initiative drew some of the most sustained applause of any portion of Trump’s 30-minute speech, which focused mostly on his administration’s accomplishments and the strength of the U.S. economy. That economic message contrasted with other world leaders who used the forum to highlight issues like climate change and global collaboration.
Trump has been asked repeatedly at gatherings with foreign leaders about his views on climate change and the environment. He declared Tuesday that he’s “a very big believer in the environment” and earlier this month told reporters he does not believe climate change is a hoax, as he once claimed.
But environmentalists have been alarmed his administration’s policies, including rolling back regulations meant to curb air and water pollution and withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.
More at Davos: Also speaking at Davos on Tuesday was 17-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Trump, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said he didn’t “really know anything” about Thunberg and dismissed her as “very angry.”
Trump has accused Thunberg of having an “anger management problem” after she won Time’s “Person of the Year” award in December.
Thunberg’s speech: Earlier Tuesday, Thunberg told the Davos forum that world leaders are not doing enough to combat climate change and urged them to treat it as a “real crisis.”
“We need to start listening to the science, and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves,” Thunberg said.
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REPUBLI-PLAN: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) teased new details about Republicans’ forthcoming climate plan Tuesday, highlighting the legislation’s focus on trees as a method for capturing carbon pollution.
The Republican effort to develop a climate bill, first reported by The Hill last week, focuses on traditional areas of interest for the party, including spurring green technology innovation and carbon capture.
A summary of the plan, shared with Axios shortly before President Trump’s announcement at the World Economic Forum that the U.S. would join the trillion tree initiative, breaks down its reliance on trees as a method for sequestering pollution.
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), who is developing the legislation that would commit the U.S. to the goal, told the outlet the plan would “go back to something old for something new and trees are the ultimate carbon sequestration.”
Republicans had previously hinted the plan would rely heavily on trees, but it’s still unclear just how many Westerman’s legislation would require planting.
The plan would not, however, set any targets for reducing carbon pollution. An ambitious plan from the Democrats outlined earlier this month would require the U.S. to rely on 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Even though Democrats have likewise expressed interest in boosting tree planting as well as green technology, the Republican plan would face an uphill battle in the House as Democrats push forward their own plan with hard targets for carbon reductions.
Environmental groups have already criticized the Republican bill, arguing they were pushing policies they’ve already thwarted.
“Congressional Republicans and Donald Trump just blocked a package of clean energy tax credits from being included in the year-end tax and budget deal,” Sierra Club global climate policy director John Coequyt said in a statement.
“That was a serious and limited solution they failed to support, but they are suddenly serious a few weeks later after decades of climate denial.”
ANOTHER ROLLBACK IN TRUMP’S SIGHTS: In case you missed it… President Trump on Sunday highlighted for farmers his plans to scale back another Obama-era water policy, a move the White House believes could pay dividends with the farm vote in this year’s presidential election.
Speaking to the crowd at the American Farm Bureau Federation conference in Austin, Texas, Trump said he would be withdrawing a water supply rule proposed in the final days of the Obama administration.
“I am proud to announce that I am taking another step to protect the water rights of American farmers and ranchers,” Trump told the room of Texas farmers.
“I am directing the Corps of Engineers to immediately withdraw the proposed rule… and allow states to manage their water resources based on their own needs and based on what their farmers and ranchers want,” he continued, referencing 2016 proposed tweaks to the Water Supply Act.
“Water is the lifeblood of agriculture and we will always protect your water supply,” Trump added.
Background: Trump’s comments come as those with a stake in water rights await another rollback promised since the president’s campaign days.
The White House is soon expected to replace the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, crafted under the Obama administration, which expanded the types of waterways protected by federal law. But farmers and other groups have argued the law was too far-reaching, requiring grand efforts to protect relatively small bodies of water that run through their property, ultimately subjecting large swaths of land to federal oversight.
Sunday’s announcement follows a September rule that scrapped the prior definition of water, reverting waterway protections back to 1986 standards.
Environmentalists and attorneys general have argued those changes will gut the Clean Water Act as pollution from farming, manufacturing, and energy production leach into water with less supervision.
Both Bloomberg and Steyer have unveiled a series of climate-related proposals after entering the race later than some of the current front-runners. Steyer, a former hedge fund executive, has called the matter his “number one priority.”
The two billionaires have a history of funding green initiatives. The former New York City mayor and owner of the Bloomberg financial empire has donated millions of dollars to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which has worked to shutter numerous coal plants, and he has pledged to donate $500 million to close the country’s remaining coal plants by 2030
Meanwhile, Steyer founded the organization NextGen America, which aims to support candidates who advocate for climate action.
Both have highlighted their commitment to the issue on the campaign trail.
Steyer has said that he would declare climate change a national emergency on his first day in office and Bloomberg has also said that fighting climate change would be a focus for him.
The push on climate change has come amid renewed attention to the issue in recent months following flooding in the Midwest, wildfires in Australia and other environmental disasters.
“They have been super active and insistent at not only raising the profile of the issue in front of voters, making it a litmus test with elected officials, but also, especially if you look at Mike Bloomberg, using his resources … to give big cities and major carbon users real incentives to plan for the future and a lower-carbon or carbon free future,” Democratic strategist Jon Reinish said of the two candidates.
Hold on: Both candidates, however, have faced a certain degree of skepticism on climate issues and they also have to contend with candidates who are polling higher than they are and who have also put heavy emphasis on climate policy.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Rolling Stone reports that oil-and-gas wells produce toxic waste
There’s a growing movement to remove dams in New York, The New York Times reports
Volkswagen settlement money to fund 17 electric vehicle ‘fast’ charging stations in North Dakota, the Bismark Tribune reports
Wyoming asks Supreme Court to decide challenge to blocked Washington coal terminal, The Casper Star Tribune reports
ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday and the long weekend…
Bloomberg, Steyer focus on climate change in effort to stand out
Supreme Court allows lawsuit against Flint city officials to advance
New details on Republican climate plan show emphasis on trees
Trump says he doesn’t know ‘very angry’ Greta Thunberg
Spain declares a national climate emergency
Trump withdraws water supply rule amid environmental rollbacks
Trump announces the US will join 1 trillion tree initiative
Trump administration grants Chevron license to keep drilling in Venezuela
Malaysia returns trash, tells wealthy countries to ‘dream on’