Meeting at New York Trump Tower comes as US president-elect picks climate science sceptic to head Environmental Protection Agency
Leonardo DiCaprio and the head of his foundation met on Wednesday with US president-elect Donald Trump to discuss how jobs centring on preserving the environment can boost the economy, hours after Trump announced a climate science sceptic to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In a statement to the Associated Press, Terry Tamminen, the CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), confirmed the meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Tamminen said the pair gave a presentation to Trump, daughter Ivanka, and other members of Trump’s team on how focusing on renewable, clean energy could create millions of jobs.
It came as Trump chose Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma and a sceptic of climate science, as the next EPA administrator, in what was widely viewed as a signal of Republicans’ desire to dismantle Obama’s climate legacy.
Pruitt has called the EPA’s rule “unlawful and overreaching” and has cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is causing the planet to warm. “That debate is far from settled,” he said in May. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”
Pruitt is also part of legal action waged by 28 states against the EPA to halt the Clean Power Plan, an effort by Barack Obama’s administration to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Environmental groups said that Pruitt was a “puppet” of the fossil fuel industry, pointing to his intervention in 2014 to push back against air pollution standards by using a three-page letter penned by Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s largest oil and gas companies.
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the US Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “He is a climate science denier who, as attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA regulations. Nothing less than our children’s health is at stake.”
Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, which has joined in defence of the Clean Power Plan in court, said “every American should be appalled” by Pruitt’s nomination.
“The head of the Environmental Protection Agency should be making sure that our air is clean to breathe and our water is safe to drink, not working to make sure polluters make more money,” he said.
His appointment comes hot on the heels of claims by Trump that global warming was a hoax masterminded by China and his promise to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.
The DiCaprio meeting focused on the economic benefits of renewable energy, Tamminen said.
“Today, we presented the president-elect and his advisors with a framework – which LDF developed in consultation with leading voices in the fields of economics and environmentalism – that details how to unleash a major economic revival across the United States that is centred on investments in sustainable infrastructure.
“Our conversation focused on how to create millions of secure, American jobs in the construction and operation of commercial and residential clean, renewable energy generation.”
The Oscar-winning actor has been a strong advocate of fighting climate change and preserving wildlife, and his recent documentary Before the Flood addresses the peril the world faces because of climate change.
DiCaprio met with Ivanka Trump a few days ago and presented her with a copy of the film.
On Monday, former vice-president turned environmental campaigner Al Gore met with the president-elect and Ivanka Trump, who reportedly plans to speak out on climate change despite her father’s scepticism.
“I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect,” Gore said after the meeting. “It was a sincere search for areas of common ground.” He said the conversation between them was “to be continued”.
Tamminen, who was secretary of California’s Environmental Protection Agency under former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, also said Trump was receptive and suggested they meet again next month.
“The president-elect expressed his desire for a follow-up meeting in January, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with the incoming administration as we work to stop the dangerous march of climate change, while putting millions of people to work at the same time,” said Tamminen.
If confirmed, Pruitt will probably aid the effort to demolish the Clean Power Plan, although this will not be a simple task as it is underpinned by the Clean Air Act of 1970. Pruitt could choose to not defend it in court or fail to implement its rules, however. The plan is currently on hold pending the legal action.
This year is set to be the warmest on record, following a trend of rising temperates over the past century. Scientists have warned that the US faces unprecedented coastline inundation, extreme weather events, drought and displacement of people should climate change not be addressed.
President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio talk climate change at the White House – video
Leonardo DiCaprio joins President Barack Obama at the White House ahead of a screening of his new documentary, Before the Flood. The actor says: “If you don’t believe in climate change, you don’t believe in facts, and science, and empirical truths,” he says. “And, in my humble opinion, [you] should not be allowed to hold public office.” The words were interpreted as a slight against presidential candidate Donald Trump.