Crib notes: Trump set to nominate environment chief

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Donald Trump is defying convention with his casual approach to calling other world leaders (Pic: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)


“We have tremendous people joining the Cabinet and beyond the Cabinet, so you’ll be seeing almost all of them next week.”

So said president-elect Donald Trump in an interview with Fox News late on Friday, with his potential choice as Environment Protection Agency (EPA) administrator exercising the minds of many policymakers.

Of the five favourites named by The Hill on Sunday, three either deny or say they are sceptical that humans are causing the planet to warm.

These are Texan lawmaker Kathleen Hartnett White, Republican attorney general of Oklahoma Scott Pruitt and Myron Ebell, who’s heading Trump’s transition team for the EPA.

The two other potential candidates are Donald Van der Vaart, North Carolina’s environmental regulator and Jeff Holmstead, who was in charge of air pollution at the EPA under the George W Bush presidency.

24 hours of Big Al 

US-China links

Still, who knows what Trump could do. On Friday his phone call with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen on Friday proved a sledghammer blow to diplomatic norms.

For nearly four decades, the US has accepted Beijing’s narrative that there is only one China and Taiwan is a renegade province that will eventually be reunited with the mainland. In a 10-minute conversation, Trump upended that.

As Climate Home has reported, the “one China” policy keeps the peace but puts Taiwan – a democracy of 24 million people – in diplomatic limbo. One of the ways Taipei is trying (unsuccessfully so far) to gain recognition internationally is through membership of the UN climate talks.

The state-run China Daily warned against over-interpreting the call – an act, the editorial said, borne out of “inexperience”. Once President Trump realised how much trade was at stake, he would surely revert to the established policy.

Speculation continues over who Trump will appoint to replace John Kerry as secretary of state, with multiple outlets reporting he is widening the search – and is in no hurry.

Trump frames his hostility to China as an “America first” strategy to “bring back jobs”. But his promises to get miners digging again may be empty, with Grist’s Rebecca Leber observing there are no coal bosses on his list of advisers.

In other news, Austria has chosen former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen as president over far-right candidate Norbert Hofer. Van der Bellen increased his lead since May, when an earlier election result was overturned due to irregularities in the vote counting.

Following the Brexit vote and nationalist surges in several European countries, this is being seen as a victory for the Europhiles.

Eurozone confidence

Keep an eye on Monday’s stock markets, which are set to offer an early indication of business confidence following the Italian referendum and the Austrian elections.

“An Italian ‘no’ vote will not result in any immediate danger, but it could be a warning to investors that they should take populist forces in the Eurozone more seriously,” say analysts at FX Street.

European Central Bank leaders meet on Thursday where they will discuss plans to inject more capital into the region’s economy through 2017 – potentially good news for major energy infrastructure projects.

Brazil forests pledge

On Saturday, on the sidelines of the COP13 UN biodiversity summit in Cancun, Brazil committed to restoring 12 million hectares of deforested land by 2030.

The announcement was made by Brazil’s Minister of the Environment José Sarney Filho: “This is a challenge that we face with determination and effort, and we are certain that our efforts will bring effective results in order for us to achieve our international goals,” he said.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it means there are now 38 countries signed up to the Bonn Challenge to protect forests targeting the restoration of 136 million hectares.

“Brazil’s pledge to contribute 12 million hectares to the Bonn Challenge is a monumental step towards achieving this crucial goal. This restoration of degraded forest and agricultural lands is a perfect example of inter-sectoral collaboration that will surely inspire others,” said Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN.

That’s the good news from COP13. The UN news centre reports efforts to protect Earth’s rich wildlife are lagging, with only a third of the “Aichi Targets” likely to be met by 2020.

Climate change is one of the key threats to survival for some species, along with deforestation, pesticide use and diseases.

NATO meets in Brussels

Foreign ministers from the world’s largest military alliance meet in Brussels this week – their first gathering since Trump’s election win.

Australian climate policy review

Canberra will conduct an assessment of the country’s clean energy and climate goals next year, a move welcomed by John Connor from NGO The Climate Institute.

“The review offers the chance for a real national conversation about how Australia can join other nations working towards net zero emissions by mid-century and modernising and decarbonising their energy systems,” he said.

“As part of the review, next year Australia can choose to continue with costly and disruptive policy chaos and political point scoring that is impacting on investment, electricity prices and energy security. Or we can choose to join the real world of responsible risk management and recognition of the economic opportunities in a world turning to clean energy.”

Top soil

It’s World Soil Day on Monday. Wait, where are you going? Come back! Yes, you should care, because soil could be caught in a vicious climate cycle.

A study published in Nature finds that under business as usual, global warming will drive 55 trillion kg of carbon loss from soils by 2050, representing 12-17% of human-caused emissions in the period.

And finally – read this

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