Murkowski predicts ‘brighter lights’ from Trump on climate

Source: Brittany Patterson, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017

A key Republican lawmaker yesterday suggested the Trump administration may coalesce around a climate change policy.

“I do think that you’re going to see some brighter lights out of the administration in terms of where they see the focus on climate initiatives,” said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Speaking at a forum on energy policy hosted by the American Council for Capital Formation, Murkowski said the inclusion of climate change into an official statement released last week at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting was a significant moment for the administration.

“While it didn’t go on about the Paris Agreement, it actually mentioned the words, which I thought was really quite significant,” Murkowski told the Washington crowd. “It’s probably the first time that I have seen a document … in this administration acknowledge the issue of climate change and the responsibility to act collectively, globally on this issue.”

Reports surfaced from the ministerial that U.S. negotiators sought last-minute changes to reflect the White House’s reluctance to commit to climate change policies, including the Paris climate agreement (Climatewire, May 12).

The words “climate change,” as well as its impacts on the Arctic and acknowledgment of the existence of the Paris Agreement, were eventually included in the Fairbanks Declaration, which is designed to highlight the accomplishments of the United States’ chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council and lay out Finland’s plans to assume leadership for the next two years.

The relatively bipartisan support enjoyed by energy issues in Congress could spill over into climate change policy, Murkowski said, although in what way remains to be seen.

As evidence, she noted the near passage of a comprehensive energy bill spearheaded by herself and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that just failed last session. She added that a “refresh” of the energy bill may be on the horizon.

The senator acknowledged she is largely agnostic to whether the United States stays in or withdraws from the international climate agreement, but in recent days has come to believe staying in the Paris accord will give the United States more leverage (see related story).

That may include being able to advocate for more domestic climate change resources, specifically for Alaskan communities that will need to adapt to the impacts of climate change or relocate in the face of rising seas and melting permafrost.

She noted that the United States committed to contributing $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, a pot of money to be used by developing nations with climate change adaptation and sustainable development, but Alaska cannot access those resources.

“I guess I’m looking at this and saying we have some responsibilities here at home, as well, and how that piece of it can be part of the discussions with Paris I think is an important part of the discussion,” she said.