Oliver Milman in New York
Tuesday 24 January 2017 17.33 GMT
If there were any lingering doubts over Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for shoving the US back into the smoggy embrace of fossil fuels, his decision to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines banishes them utterly.
Trump has thrown down the most provocative gauntlet possible to the environmental movement, which now sees its worst fears crystalizing within a few days of the inauguration. Those Trump Tower chats with Al Gore about climate change – and Ivanka Trump’s apparent concern over the issue – now vanish over the horizon. This will be an aggressively pro-oil and gas administration, even if that means boiling the planet.
“Donald Trump has been in office for four days and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the environmental organisation the Sierra Club.
“Simply put, Donald Trump is who we thought he is: a person who will sell off Americans’ property and tribal rights, clean air and safe water to corporate polluters.”
The resurrection of the Keystone XL pipeline will cause particular anguish among climate activists. Protests over the plan to run the 1,200-mile pipeline from the Canadian tar sands to Texas dogged Barack Obama throughout his presidency. Finally, in 2015, Obama announced that the pipeline would not go ahead, stating that the refusal showed the US is “now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change”.
That climate leadership is now in danger of being eroded, at a time when the world’s major polluters must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to avoid dangerous global warming. The tribes and other groups that fought for years against Keystone will now to have to wearily re-enter the fray against TransCanada, the company behind the project. Following Obama’s refusal, TransCanada sued the US for $15bn under the North American Free Trade Agreement.