Staring into the Abyss on Earth Day: Breaking Down the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025

Staring into the Abyss on Earth Day: Breaking Down the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025

During his first term in office, President Trump left a devastating climate legacy, rolling back over 100 environmental rules, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, and appointing climate deniers to the top ranks of his administration.

A study by the nonpartisan Rhodium Group found that Trump-era climate policies had the potential to add more than 1.8 gigatons of CO2-equivalent to the atmosphere by 2035, equal to nearly one-third of all U.S. emissions in 2019. This would be more than the combined emissions of Germany, Britain and Canada’.

While the current Administration has been far from perfect, Biden was able to reverse many of his predecessor’s unprecedented rollbacks, rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day of office, and pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the most significant climate legislation in the country’s history. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the IRA has the potential to reduce economy-wide CO2 emissions by 35 to 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

A second Trump term would likely be even worse. Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation's Presidential Transition Project, provides a playbook for the next Republican president. This dystopian 900-page manifesto amounts to an "Open Plot to Dismantle the Federal Government," and many of its authors are prominent Trump-era figures, such as Dr. Ben Carson and Peter Navarro.

The manifesto is far-reaching in scale and scope, presenting an existential threat to American democracy, and its plans to dismantle decades of environmental progress are among the most frightening. Project 2025’s authors seek to scale up oil and natural gas production, slash EPA funding, abolish agencies and vital environmental offices throughout the government, and stack the government with right-wing idealogues. 

 An Authoritarian Playbook

“Project 2025 is not a white paper. We are not tinkering at the edges. We are writing a battle plan, and we are marshaling our forces,” said Paul Dans, director of Project 2025. “Never before has the whole conservative movement banded together to systematically prepare to take power day one and deconstruct the administrative state.”

The Heritage Foundation document explores ways to reduce the federal workforce, including calling  for a freeze on all top career-position hiring as a means to prevent “burrowing-in” by outgoing political appointees. This is part of a broader plan to replace civil service workers with GOP loyalists and provides a blueprint for the Heritage Foundation’s plans to “institutionalize Trumpism.”

Project 2025 is filled with calls to dismantle or slash funding for several key environmental agencies. The Department of Commerce chapter brazenly calls for the dismantling of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and urges the elimination of several key offices in the Department of Energy that are playing a key role in the green energy transition, including the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Grid Deployment Office, and Clean Energy Corps.

What’s more, Chapter 13 of Project 2025 aims to create a conservative EPA that will dramatically reduce the agency’s size and scope. The manifesto seeks to eliminate the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, returning its responsibilities to the Office of the Administrator.  At the heart of this chapter is a proposal to restructure and streamline the agency to be better aligned with "the principles of cooperative federalism and limited government."

Chapter 16 advocates overhauling the Department of the Interior. It seeks to scale up offshore and natural gas lease sales to the maximum extent permitted and urges the next Administration to work with Congress to pass new legislation to reform onshore leasing. The chapter also calls for rescinding several Biden-era rules and reforms on BLM waste prevention, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and National Environmental Policy Act reforms.

Project 2025 calls for the repeal of some of President Biden’s landmark achievements, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and IRA. It urges not only withdrawing from the Paris Agreement again, but also withdrawing from the entire. U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), although it is unclear if the President has the legal authority to do so. 

“Pulling out of Paris is already bad enough because that’s the signature agreement under the framework convention,” Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G, told E&E News. “But pulling out of the framework convention would be a higher level of insult because it would mean that we don’t think the whole topic of climate change is serious, and we don’t need to be part of any multilateral process to address it.”

While the document does not directly address climate finance, it is particularly critical of the decision to establish a fund for loss and damage at COP27, falsely accusing the current Administration of supporting the idea of providing trillions of dollars as a matter of "climate reparations." The document warns of a "reparations slush fund" that fails to protect U.S. interests and demands that it not be supported in any form.

A Call to Action 

From a climate perspective, the stakes of the 2024 election could not be higher. Project 2025’s proposals are much more ambitious than the actions of the Trump administration. 

A second Biden term with a Democratic Congress would allow for the further implementation of the IRA. While the current administration has been the subject of much criticism, with oil production hitting all-time highs in recent months, a second term could be transformative in transitioning to a greener economy and build on the historic success of the first term.

On the other hand, a second Trump term would be catastrophic for the planet and have severe ramifications domestically and internationally. If Project 2025 were fully implemented, it would not only overhaul the Federal government, but would also put us on a path toward authoritarianism and hasten our trajectory toward climate breakdown. A move to withdraw from the UNFCCC would be disastrous for an already shaky global order.

The Heritage Foundation’s manifesto makes it clear that the planet cannot withstand a second Trump term. We must prevent the goals set forth in Project 2025 from being fulfilled this November.