US climate plans will survive Republican attacks, say officials

Lead US climate envoy says dismantling White House carbon cutting policies would be “tough to do” 

(Pic: White House/Flickr)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell with president Barack Obama (Pic: White House/Flickr)

By Ed King

US proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 28% by 2025 based on 2005 levels will be tough to stop, say White House officials, despite intense opposition from some Republicans. 

On Tuesday the Obama administration formally announced its pledge to a global climate agreement, due to be finalised in Paris this December.

Its emissions goal will be reached by curbing coal use in electricity generation through the clean power plan, tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and a new drive to address methane emissions.

“This target is consistent with a straight line emission reduction pathway from 2020 to deep, economy-wide emission reductions of 80% or more by 2050,” the submission to the UN  said.

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The news riled some Republicans hostile to any efforts to create a UN climate deal, notably Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

“Considering that two-thirds of the US federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal,” he said.

Senator Jim Inhofe, lead Republican environment spokesman on Capitol Hill, told reporters that Obama’s pledge would “not see the light of day” with the current Congress.

There was no word from the Republicans touted as presidential candidates, but few if any have said they believe in climate change.

Ted Cruz, the first to officially announce he was running for the White House, recently branded climate campaigners “the equivalent of flat-earthers” in an interview with the Texas Tribune.

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A proposed Paris deal would only come into effect by 2020, offering a White House that wants to change the script plenty of time.

But Brian Deese, a senior advisor to President Obama said the plans outlined in the US submission were consistent with current policies, and would require no further approval.

“It’s based on existing laws that have been passed by Congress and therefore no new legislation is necessary to realise the reductions we propose,” he said.

Most US climate policies were released last year, while in November Obama made an historic joint carbon cutting announcement with China’s president Xi Jinping.

But some are still working their way through the federal and state lawmaking process, with the clean power plan, which could cut emissions from electricity 30%, due out in the summer.

McConnell last month wrote to states urging them not to comply with the curbs on coal generation.

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US climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters the prospect of a president who opposes climate regulations coming to power in 2016 worries other countries.

Some fear that because the US government refuses to contemplate a treaty similar to the Kyoto Protocol, with internationally binding targets, it could easily pull out.

But Stern – lead climate negotiator since 2009 – argued it would not be easy to take apart two presidential terms of work.

“The undoing of the regulations we are putting in place is something that is very tough to do,” he said.

“Countries ask me about the solidity of what we are doing all the time, and that’s exactly what I say, based on existing authority and the kind of regulations we are putting in place does not get easily undone.”

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