As Donald Trump takes the helm in the US, what does this mean for global and local commitments to carbon reduction and energy management?

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States took place on Friday, January 20, 2017, on the West Front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

For many low carbon advocates, Trump’s assumption of power spells trouble for climate change and clean business. But is there any way to predict what his true impacts will be?

Trump on low carbon

 Undoubtedly, Trump has got many businesses worried. Frankly, most don’t want a reprisal of energy-intensive, carbon heavy approaches to trade.

Evidencing this, some very notable US firms are calling for Trump to listen, and roll back his promises to undo Obama’s clean power legacy.

The companies, listed at, include Adidas, Adobe, DuPont, Monsanto and Starbucks, and there are many more big names besides.

Their call: “We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy. Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.”

So, even before Trump takes the reigns, dissent against a fossil-based free for all exists.

The trouble with Trump is his bipolar tendency to shift mood and stance. It’s hard to tell whether his promises to back fossil fuels will actually roll through into Government policy.

Trump’s advisors; the real danger men

As with most of his policies, Trump veers wildly on whether or not he’s genuinely a climate change denier. The real key lies with those he’s electing to help him administrate power.

For a start, look at Rex Tillerson, incoming Secretary of State.

‘Tillerson has long cast doubt on the accuracy of climate models, for example saying at a 2013 ExxonMobil annual shareholder meeting: “Our ability to project with any degree of certainty the future is continuing to be very limited…our examination about the models are that they’re not competent.’” writes The Guardian.

“Our ability to project with any degree of certainty the future is continuing to be very limited…our examination about the models are that they’re not competent.”

Rex Tillerson

Herein lies the issue. Trump’s bringing conservative fossil fuel believers to the table with him. The Guardian explains the danger:

‘The point is that Tillerson tries to cast doubt on scientists’ ability to project what will happen in the future, because the projections show that we need to leave most fossil fuel reserves in the ground. For Exxon, that’s bad for business.’

Objectively, you can’t blame Tillerson for supporting Exxon; it’s been his life’s work. To change now is like asking a long term energy efficiency CEO to shout hard for a revival of fossil fuels; it’s never going to happen.

The truth, and what it means

Logically, one can only assume Tillerson will try to roll back clean energy and low carbon business in the US.

But wait. China’s chief climate negotiator has attempted to calm fears that Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House will spell disaster for the fight against climate change.

The Guardian writes; ‘Xie, a Communist party veteran who spent more than a decade at the helm of China’s environmental agency, told the China Daily the global momentum behind the push towards a low carbon future was now such that no one person was capable of halting progress.

“Industrial upgrades aiming for more sustainable growth is a global trend… It is not something that can be reversed by a single political leader,” he was quoted as saying.

‘The newspaper said Xie believed, “The international community and US citizens will pressure the Trump administration to continue clean energy policies.”’

Trump’s love for trade

So, it comes down to this. What does Trump love more, Tillerson and his administration, or useful trade and relations with China? If China’s journey towards clean energy hastens, as it is doing, and must do given China’s lethal smogs, Chinese manufacturing will continue to thrive, threatening US markets.

And the Chinese simply won’t let US goods compete globally, if US manufacturing then tries to steal a march on them with fossil-based power, rolling back the Paris promises. China needs clean air and energy. But it won’t let them come through economic disadvantage to others.

The battle for clean energy under Trump comes down not to policy, but the politics of trade. What should the energy management and efficiency sector do in the meantime?

The answer is simple. Don’t worry about what Trump might do. Rather, make better and better efficiency and management tools to help make clean manufacturing and business more competitive. Then, it’s guaranteed The Donald will fall in line, whether he likes it or not.

China, using the cleanest tools and the best, most competitive manufacturing, will force him.

More on energy management

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