Oct 13, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump to sign "trillion trees" executive order

an illustration of an elephant's trunk holding a tree

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday designed to put more weight behind the administration's role in the international One Trillion Trees Initiative, a White House official said.

Why it matters: White House support for the initiative contrasts with Trump's overall climate posture.

  • He rejects consensus science on human-induced warming and is scuttling Obama-era emissions rules.
  • Supporting trees, however, has been one narrow way Trump and other Republicans have cautiously backed action.

The state of play: It creates an interagency council tasked with "developing, coordinating, and promoting" U.S. work on tree growth and conservation.

  • It includes creating a methodology to track the efforts, and addressing "potential statutory and regulatory limitations."
  • It's led by the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture and contains 12 other agencies, as well as Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other White House officials.

What they're saying: "Through today’s executive order, and on the heels of the Great American Outdoors Act signed into law by the President just two months ago, we continue to prioritize forest conservation in America and around the world. I am proud to serve on the Trillion Trees Interagency Council as we advance solutions to promote healthy and resilient forests for future generations," Ivanka Trump told Axios.

Catch up fast: In January Trump announced U.S. participation in the initiative launched at the World Economic Forum early this year.

  • The global push to plant or conserve a trillion trees by 2030 is about climate but also biodiversity and other ecological needs.

The intrigue: White House information on the order briefly notes trees' role in removing CO2, but doesn't mention climate change or warming.

  • It's touting the need for healthy forests that protect watersheds and also promoting national forests' role in the tourism economy.
  • The order's text wasn't yet available this morning.

Between the lines: Joe Biden has been attacking Trump's environmental positions. The order could be aimed at softening Trump's image.

Reality check: Keeping warming in check will require vastly more than forest growth and protection, though it's one important tool.

  • Trees are no substitute for steeply cutting emissions from the very fossil fuels Trump aggressively promotes.
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