Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obama's Achievements Ahead of COP15

Despite the Senate's resistance to climate change legislation, the Obama administration has made considerable progress on the environmental front.

Unlike his predecessor, President Obama heeds the dire warnings of federal climate scientists. Accordingly, he is using his arsenal of executive powers to set policy and advance important environmental initiatives.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward on regulations that would limit emissions from large polluters.

The EPA and the Department of Transportation have proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks in the US starting in 2011. Between 2011-2016 these standards will reduce oil consumption by 2 billion barrels of oil and remove one billion tons of carbon that otherwise would have been released into the atmosphere.

Recently the President issued a comprehensive executive order that directs federal agencies to establish absolute goals for carbon-cuts, to reduce fossil fuel consumption in federal vehicles by 30 percent, to implement a net-zero-energy requirement for federal buildings and to add sustainability requirements to federal contracts.

In September, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar created a Climate Change Response Council to coordinate the department's actions on global warming and move toward substantial renewable energy production on public lands.

At the the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, President Obama proposed eliminating fossil energy subsidies totaling about 300 billion annually. The administration also asked Congress to revoke domestic tax breaks for fossil energy industries.

The administration is seeking bilateral climate agreements with other key nations, In July, the administration signed a memorandum of understanding with China on energy, climate and environmental cooperation.

Perhaps most importantly, the economic stimulus bill provides tens of billions of dollars for clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, efficiency and renewable energy.

Through policy, executive orders, departmental regulations and international diplomacy, the Obama administration has demonstrated a firm committment to managing climate change. Despite the considerable efforts of the Obama administration, the failure to pass climate change legislation in the US precludes a binding international agreement in Copenhagen.

There will be no binding international agreement at COP15 this December because some US senators are putting partisan economic interests ahead of global threats.

Next: The Cost of a Global Deal on Climate Change

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