The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy is the only office at DOE with the words ‘climate’ in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies.
A supervisor at the Energy Department’s international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO.
Employees of DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy learned of the ban at a meeting Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters to reverse most of former President Barack Obama’s climate regulatory initiatives. Officials at the State Department and in other DOE offices said they had not been given a banned words list, but they had started avoiding climate-related terms in their memos and briefings given the new administration’s direction on climate change.
The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy is the only office at DOE with the words “climate” in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies. It plays a key role in U.S. participation in the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, two international efforts launched under Obama that were designed to advance clean energy technology.
The office has regular contact with officials from foreign countries, which may have led to the more aggressive action on language than in other offices, a source said. At the meeting, senior officials told staff the words would cause a “visceral reaction” with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, his immediate staff, and the cadre of White House advisers at the top of the department.
A DOE spokeswoman denied there had been a new directive. “No words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department,” said DOE spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler.
Another DOE source in a different office said that although there had been no formal instructions about climate-related language in their office there was a general sense that it’s better to avoid certain hot-button terms in favor of words like “jobs” and “infrastructure.”
A State Department official reported a similar mood.
“We have definitively not received anything on banned words, not even orally,” the State official said. “But people are doing a lot of reading into tea leaves. People are taking their own initiatives to not use certain words based on hints from transition people. Everyone is encouraged to finding different ways of talking about things. There’s a sense that you’d better find a way to delink” from the previous administration’s talking points.
News of the DOE office’s word ban drew criticism from one green group.
“What exactly is this office supposed to call itself now? The international C****** office? Ignoring the climate crisis will not make it go away, will not create jobs in the booming clean energy economy, and will not make our country great,” Liz Perera, climate policy director at Sierra Club, said in a statement.
Darius Dixon and Ben Lefebvre contributed to this report.