Cutting Carbon Would Aid Labor Productivity, Economy Report Says

The Obama administration said cutting U.S. carbon emissions would benefit the economy in coming decades by boosting labor productivity, avoiding damages from coastal storms or wildfires and lowering electricity demand.

Issued two years after President Barack Obama said combating climate change would be a top priority of his second term, the report pulls from federal data to show climate change impacts and risks. Officials said it shows Obama’s proposals to curb greenhouse gases from trucks, power plants, landfills and oil wells will all provide health and economic payoffs.

“Climate action now is necessary to address the trajectory on a long-term basis,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday at a media briefing at the White House.

Administration negotiators are working this year to reach a global accord to fight climate change, while fending off efforts from Republican lawmakers to halt any and all regulations to rein in emissions. This week Congress is set to vote on measures that would block the EPA’s plan to curb carbon gases spewed from power plants, and a spending measure that would slash the EPA’s funding and also halt those rules.

White House officials signaled Obama would veto those measures, and said they’re confident the administration doesn’t need a vote from Congress on any global climate accord.

“We feel comfortable and confident that we have the authority to get it done,” Brian Deese, a White House climate advisor, said of the talks overseen by the United Nations.

Critics say Obama’s pledge to the UN that the U.S. would slash its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 can’t be achieved without Congress mandating larger changes to the U.S. economy. With Republican control of the House and Senate, and continued congressional criticism of the EPA’s efforts, any new climate legislation is unlikely.

The administration hasn’t spelled out exactly how it foresees those emission cuts happening.

That goal “assumes we execute the slate of actions we’ve identified,” Deese said. “There’s not an assumption” of congressional action, he said.

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