Compared to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton's environmental credentials seem impeccable. But what does her actual record say about her commitment to green issues - and will she be able to get the climate treaty passed?

American environmentalists are going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and it is no mystery why.

Her opponent, Donald Trump, has called global warming "a concept created by the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive." He has pledged to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), end all United States participation in global climate efforts, and has called renewable energy "unreliable and terrible." A comparison of the two candidates yields extreme results.

And yet, it is hard to find an environmentalist who is very enthusiastic about the prospect of a Clinton presidency.

She has said the right things, calling climate change "an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time." She wants to continue the climate policies of Barack Obama's second term, defend and expand Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP) limiting power plant emissions, and build on Obama's plan to reduce US emissions 17 percent below their 2005 levels by 2020.

She wants the US to generate 25 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2025, and is comfortable using subsidies to get there. She has vowed to "make America the clean-energy superpower of the 21st century."

However, as US environmental activist Bill McKibben noted in an open letter to Clinton, environmentalism has never been one of the hallmarks of Clinton's political campaigns or public service.

"Your rhetoric has been correct but eye-glazing, dominated by phrases like 'urgent' and 'moral' and 'grandchildren' - the words skillful politicians use to signal interest without committing themselves to actual policies," he wrote. "Climate change feels like a late add-on."

Combination photo of Trump and Clinton

There is a vast gulf on climate policy between Clinton and Trump, who denies that climate change exists

Dissecting her record

Environmentalists like McKibben have several concerns about Clinton's eco record, with the two biggest being her past support for fracking, and her previous silence on the Keystone XL pipeline.

In 2010, while she was secretary of state, Clinton launched the Global Shale Initiative to help other countries explore for shale gas using a now controversial method of extraction called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The idea was to help countries shift from coal to natural gas, which is far less carbon-intensive.

Since then, concerns have arisen about the safety of this extraction process, and many environmentalists feel the carbon benefits of shale gas are outweighed by the emissions produced while extracting it.

During the presidential primary campaign, Clinton's opponent Bernie Sanders hit her hard for supporting fracking. But since further evidence of environmental impacts has come to light, Clinton has been quiet on the subject.

Clinton's State Department also had to weigh in on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Canada to the United States. The department stalled on approval, but Clinton said she was "inclined" to support it.

Demonstrators rally outside the White House in support of President Barack Obama's pledge to veto any legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline (Photo: AP/Jose Luis Magana)

Like Clinton, Obama also eventually came out against the Keystone XL pipeline

In the first months of her campaign, Clinton refused to say whether she supported it or not. But at the end of the year, she announced that she opposes it - prompting accusations of a "flip-flop" from Sanders. Shortly afterwards, Obama said that he, too, opposes the pipeline.

Yet Clinton also created a special envoy for climate change at the state department, and spearheaded a number of emissions-reducing initiatives for the developing world, including the 2010 Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves - combining climate with her interest in women's health.

The climate question

Clinton was secretary of state during the disastrous 2009 United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, which collapsed in failure after the US and China could not agree to a deal both could sign.

But supporters of the UN climate process understand that a Clinton win is the only way to get the Paris Agreement ratified (after Obama announced the intention for the US to ratify it), since Donald Trump has vowed to veto it.

"Obviously, there would be huge concern from the global climate movement if Trump were elected - but at the same time, Hillary Clinton hasn't necessarily shown the kind of global leadership that is required," Asad Rehman, a senior climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told DW.

Rehman believes the climate issue has been "pushed onto" Clinton, including due to pressure from the Sanders camp. "We're not extremely confident - we recognize there are domestic constraints that exist for President Obama, and these will exist for her," he added.

Senator Chuck Schumer at a ceremony with Obama

Senator Chuck Schumer (right) wants to pass a carbon tax if Democrats take control of the Senate

A broken Congress

So what will Clinton do for the environment and the climate, and how does that stack up against Obama?

Decisive here is whether Republicans or Democrats take majority control of the US Congress in the November election.

Congress has been under Republican control since 2010, and since then it has not passed a single piece of environmental or climate legislation (or indeed, much legislation of any kind). A planned bill to introduce a carbon cap-and-trade scheme in the US had to be abandoned after Republicans swept into power.

Since then, Obama has had to work around the no-legislation congress by enacting climate and environment legislation through executive powers - mostly through the EPA that Trump has promised to scrap. The constitutionality of this policy is still being challenged, and the Supreme Court should rule next June over whether Obama exceeded his authority.

Array of mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System near Primm, Nev. (Photo: AP/John Locher)

Solar power has vast potential in sunny western states

Clinton will most likely still be faced with a Republican Congress, meaning that she would have little choice but to continue the executive action strategy of Obama. This major limitation means her administration is likely to be tied up in legal challenges on any climate action for the entirety of her tenure.

The Democrats are currently looking into whether the president can legally ratify the Paris Accord without the approval of Congress.

Obama's third term?

A Democratic senate staffer pointed out that Republicans would still have the ability to block legislation in the Senate through the filibuster. "Clinton would probably have to still work around Congress either way," the staffer told DW. "So she would keep going with the sector-by-sector regulations, and we can expect a full-throated defense of the CPP."

Chuck Schumer, the man tipped to lead the Senate if Democrats win control, has floated the possibility of Congress passing a carbon tax if he's in charge.

The staffer told DW that's unlikely, given the filibuster and unenthusiastic moderate coal state Democrats. One of Clinton's advisors has said she's not very interested in pushing for a carbon tax, the staffer added. "I think she'd be open to one if it came to her desk, but I don't see that happening."

That leaves Obama's Clean Power Plan as the main vehicle to get the US to its 17 percent emissions reduction goal. "Republicans are painting a Clinton presidency as a third Obama term - and frankly I'm OK with that, particularly since he was so active on climate in his second term," the staffer told DW.

by Deutsche Welle


original story HERE


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