Ivanka Trump, since taking on the position of Trump’s senior advisor, claims that she can influence her father to make climate change a primary policy issue. This will be challenging since Trump stated that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Trump’s interests in business have repeatedly outweighed any development of environmental initiatives. He has rolled back regulations aimed to lower global warming emissions, withdrawn America from the Paris Agreement, as well as weakened protections on most National Parks and wetlands.
Critics have pointed to Trump’s attacks on environmental protections as evidence of Ivanka’s lack of involvement. Ivanka Trump has been a figure of conciliation between her father and the general public, yet has remained relatively quiet regarding sustainability.
However, after relentless cuts on environmentalist policy, Trump seems to have shifted his attitude on climate change. Trump shared his administration’s commitment to “conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world.”
So, on July 27th, Ivanka Trump will speak at the virtual American Forestry Conference. There, she will highlight the next steps in enforcing the One Trillion Trees Act and The Great Outdoors Act; they may become two pieces of legislation that kickstart Trump’s shift come reelection.
‘If the President and daughter really want to help, they should visit Environmental Justice communities’
Policies such as the One Trillion Trees Act seem to perfectly balance both of Trump’s business and environmental interests. Namely, trees do not threaten oil or coal industries, nor divert attention to high-cost energy conservation initiatives. The Great Outdoors Act then acts as a welcome change to the massive cuts Trump has made against National Parks. However, experts suggest that these initiatives act as blanket solutions to much larger, systemic issues.
Former EPA Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice, Mustafa Santiago Ali, sat down with The Rising to voice his perspective. He says that policies like the One Trillion Trees Act and the Great Outdoors Act “give a false sense of authentic action,” especially considering Trump’s 100+ environmental rollbacks.
“If the President and daughter really want to help, they should visit environmental justice communities that have been the sacrifice zones and dumping grounds for our most toxic pollutants,” Ali says.
“Then work with those communities and others on a comprehensive plan that addresses the systemic racism that is literally killing black and brown people, and focus on a clean economy that can help them move from surviving to thriving.”
Ivanka Trump has been fairly silent about environmental policy shifts
While Ivanka has attempted to dissuade her father from leaving the Paris Agreement by arranging meetings with climate leaders, such as former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, her failure to keep the agreement has soured her relationship with Democratic officials. Since then, she has remained relatively silent on environmental policy shifts.
Some take her silence as her compliance with a lot of Trump’s cuts, especially ones targeted towards the indigenous community. Trump’s recent reversal will remove environmental reviews for major projects, which will fast-track many construction projects to boost the economy.
This could mean rapid approval for projects such as Dakota Access Pipeline, highways, and oil rigs; all of which disproportionately landed in indigenous lands and communities of color.
Is the science correct?
Although most organizations accept Ivanka’s support of The Great Outdoors Act, the One Trillion Tree Initiative is still under scrutiny. The OTT comes from a study by Tom Crowther, who posits that one trillion trees could significantly reduce carbon emissions.
However, scientists such as Joseph Veldman wrote multiple critiques against the study. Veldman says the amount of carbon that the study claimed one trillion trees could remove was “five times too large.”
While Crowther stands by his research, he states the full benefits won’t be known for another 100 years. “If tree planting is just used as an excuse to avoid cutting greenhouse gas emissions or to further limit environmental protection, then it could be a real disaster,” Dr. Crowther admits.
Many question if Ivanka Trump is committed
Though we don’t know exactly what’s in store, this initiative is the first environmental policy Ivanka headed in a while. She claims to be committed to protecting forests and their impact on the American family. And Ivanka hopes to add climate change to her portfolio of primary policies.
Ali is skeptical of the effectiveness of the initiative but still wishes the first daughter the best. “Focusing on one small part means that you are excluding the whole, and you’re leaving huge gaps in whatever type of successful strategy might be pulled together,” Ali tells The Rising.
“But I welcome her, being she’s authentic and works to make that happen. We need as many champions as we can. However, there are plenty of champions that are already out there that the President could be tapping into.”
Jessica is a writer based in NYC, with bylines at Vox and EGMNOW. You can pitch her stories at jessica [at] therising.co