Tuesday, August 4, 2015

EU hails Obama’s new climate plan as ‘genuine’ effort to cut emissions

The European Union hailed US President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan late on Tuesday, calling it a "positive step forward" towards cutting carbon emissions.

Obama, announcing the first-ever limits on US power plant emissions, on Monday said plant owners must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

"No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a change in climate," Obama said on Monday, warning: "There is such a thing as being too late."

"This is one of those rare issues, because of its magnitude, because of its scope, that if we don't get it right, we may not be able to reverse," he said at the White House.

The EU promptly praised the US president's efforts.

Miguel Arias Canete, the EU commissioner for climate action and energy, tweeted: "The clean power plan is a positive step forward in the genuine efforts of the United States to cut its emissions."


In another tweet, Canete said the plan "gives further momentum" to the global climate summit to be held in Paris later this year.

The plan "shows US commitment to underpin its international climate pledge with domestic action", Canete said.


"If fully implemented, [the plan] can boost clean energy and speed up the low-carbon transformation in the US."

Last November, Obama set a target for the United States, the world's second-biggest polluter after China, to cut its overall emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

The European Union, the third-biggest global polluter, has tried to lead by example since its member states agreed to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030, a binding target that is the world's most ambitious.

Hard sell in the US


The Clean Power Plan is intended to be a key part of the president's legacy on global warming, which he pledged to fight as a candidate for the White House in 2008.

But the president faces an uphill battle to sell the legislation at home.

Climate change is a hot-button issue in American politics and cuts are politically sensitive because coal, among the dirtiest energy sources, remains a major US industry.

The issue is currently being debated among candidates for next year's presidential election, as much of the work of implementation will lie with Obama’s successor.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has already expressed her support for the plan.

In the short term, however, Obama's invocations got short shrift from the Republican-controlled Congress, which described the measures as "overreach" and "heavy-handed".

The Obama administration has estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030, although the actual price won't be clear until states decide how they'll reach their targets.

Many Republican governors said their states simply won't comply, announcing that they will sue the government and ask the courts to put the rule on hold while their legal challenges play out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the new rules would shutter power plants and drive up electricity costs.

Republican lawmaker labels plan an 'insult'

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, called the plan an "energy tax" that the administration wanted to issue during a slow recovery from recession.

"I believe this final plan is an expensive, arrogant insult to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet," he said.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry lobby group, previewed likely legal action, saying Obama's administration was "pursuing an illegal plan that will drive up electricity costs and put people out of work".

Accusing detractors of "scaremongering", Obama insisted that suggestions of higher electricity costs, power shortages and a damaged economy would prove incorrect.

The plan has some influential supporters, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a senator from coal-rich Kentucky, while the leader of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, accused Obama of choosing a "green legacy over a growing economy".

But Obama cited US precedent in defending his plan.

"When president [Richard] Nixon decided to do something about the smog that was choking our cities, they warned that it would ruin the auto industry. It didn't happen," Obama said.
  (FRANCE24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

  france24.com
4/8/15
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UN chief welcomes climate change plan unveiled by President Obama

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