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US activists turn to UN in fight against Trump in climate change debate

Saeed Shabazz | 3/30/2017, 10:50 a.m.
The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, told reporters on the eve of President Donald Trump’s signing ...

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, told reporters on the eve of President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order to end former President Barack Obama’s plan to curb global warming that the move will be “pro-growth and pro-environment.”

According to The Associated Press, Trump signed the executive order March 28 to undo the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

Grassroots activists in the U.S. say they “will continue to turn to the United Nations as a tool to organize and strategize from the bottom up with a united voice, which is why this administration snubs the U.N.”

Michele Roberts, co-coordinator at the Washington, DC-based Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, told the AmNews that it was no surprise that the Trump administration snubbed the high-level UN climate change panel discussion March 23. During the discussion, participants pointed to the impacts on the climate that the world is already experiencing—the warming temperatures, the rising sea levels, the growing severity and frequency of storms and flooding, prolonged droughts, the melting of glaciers, the loss of biodiversity and the ravages of ocean acidification.

Ethiopian State Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirut Zemene told the panel, “This is not the time to doubt the devastating impacts of climate change. It is time to take comprehensive actions to combat climate change and its impacts.”

Ethiopia is currently presiding over the 40-member Climate Vulnerable Forum. According to the U.N., Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in decades, with more than 8 million people in need of food assistance as a result of weather conditions that are expected to worsen.

“Ending poverty cannot be achieved in an environment in which socio-economic gains are constantly eroded, or worst totally demolished, by climate-induced events,” stated Ambassador Juliette Riley, charge d’affaires ad interim of the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the U.N.

“I wish to use this opportunity to reiterate that the scientific basis for analyzing climate-induced impacts has vastly improved since we first set out on this journey. The science behind climate change is now robust and incontrovertible. We must resist reverting to the dark days of burying our heads in the sand concerning this very real phenomenon.”

The lone American bold enough to defy the Trump administration in addressing the U.N. panel was Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee. He said, “Our destiny is to use our human powers of innovation, genius, creativity and technological ability to build a clean energy economy, and the inevitable opportunities for prosperity that follow from those developments.”

In the meantime, Trump said he wants to cut the federal EPA budget by 31 percent. “He [Trump] is not going with science, they are going with corporate polluters,” said Roberts. “When you look at programs like the EPA ‘Superfund,’ which will be further decimated—the power will now move to the states.” EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters, according to its website.

Dr. Robert D. Bullard, scholar, lecturer, policy guru, award winning author of more than 18 books and revered “father of environmental justice,” tweeted that the story of a Louisiana town plagued by pollution shows why cuts to EPA will be measured in illnesses and deaths @DrBobBullard.

“We as Black folk must now be diligent about the midterm elections by supporting candidates who understand the need to make environmental justice a priority in local elections,” Roberts said.