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Over the last few weeks, social media, websites and newspapers have been full of the presidential elections in the USA. Just as with Brexit, the ‘underdog’ of the media decided the argument. That is, at least, if possible recounts of the votes - currently in Wisconsin - do not lead to a different judgement. Should Trump take up office, one of the key questions is: what will The Donald do with climate change and how are his policies geared towards this?
Lucien Joppen

Trump initially expressed an extremely negative opinion about climate change and even labelled it an initiative of the Chinese government to restrict the competitiveness of the American manufacturing industry. Trump also tweeted about the coal that would revitalise the economy in Virginia.

His decision to put Harold Hamm, a billionaire from the oil and gas sector, on the shortlist for the position of Energy Secretary seems to be more significant. This would point at renewed attempts to get fossil energy back at the top of the agenda: a step back from policy set in motion earlier under Obama to promote the development and exploitation of renewable energy.

In the meantime, Trump has backed down slightly by stating that the influence of humans on climate change has been proven, just not the extent to which. So it remains a guessing game as to what the president-elect really thinks – but the signs are not favourable.

The question is whether the USA would be able to turn the renewable tide. In the USA, the separate states also have considerable influence. Thus around 30 states drew up their own standards for generating part of the electricity supply from renewables. It is also conceivable that protests will increase from parts of the population and civil society, as is happening now with the Keystone pipeline.

On the international stage there is serious doubt whether Trump’s course will affect the policy of other nations. China, responsible for 30 percent of the worldwide CO2 emissions, is dispensing with coal to an increasing extent and is also making a greater effort regarding renewable energy and chemistry. The industrial biotechnology sector in China will grow 20 percent in the coming years. The government plays a crucial role in this, not only through policy-making, but also in research and development. Perhaps China – first the ‘wrongdoer’ in global warming – can set a good example for the USA?