U.S. Will Keep Commitments in Paris Climate Deal, Obama Says

Obama: Climate Change Affects All Trends
  • Republicans have sought to block many Obama environment rules
  • Paris agreement requires U.S. money for developing nations

The U.S. will meet commitments to help finance developing nations’ efforts to reduce carbon pollution, President Barack Obama said, challenging congressional Republicans who have fought most of his environmental policies.

More than 180 nations are gathered in Paris to discuss a far-reaching agreement to reduce global carbon emissions. The emerging deal would require wealthy countries, including the U.S., to cut their own pollution while helping poorer countries shift from dependency on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change.

“My expectation is that we will absolutely be able to meet our commitments,” Obama said Tuesday at a news conference in Paris after concluding two days of meetings. “This is part of American leadership, by the way. This is part of the debate that we have to have in the United States more often. Too often American leadership is defined by sending troops somewhere.”

Republicans in Congress and in statehouses have sought to block Obama’s efforts to reduce U.S. carbon emissions, including new rules limiting pollution from coal-fired power plants. While the amount of the U.S. commitment to the global climate deal hasn’t been settled, it isn’t clear that Republicans who control Congress, and the government’s purse strings, would agree to any contribution. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, says the president has overlooked pollution control improvements made by the fossil-fuel industry.

Obama seeks to include a global climate agreement in his legacy as he enters the final year of his presidency. He has increasingly framed climate change as a security issue. Drought, flooding and other natural disasters linked to rising sea levels and global warming make the world less stable, Obama said.

"This one trend, climate change, affects all trends," Obama said in Paris. "If we let the world keep warming as fast as it is and sea levels rising as fast as they are, and weather patterns keep shifting in more unexpected ways, then before long we are going to have to devote more and more and more of our economic and military resources not to growing opportunity for our people, but to adapting to the various consequences of a changing planet."

Changing Politics

It’s not clear whether any Republican campaigning to succeed Obama in 2017 would stick to the terms of a Paris agreement.

“The politics inside the U.S. is changing,” and Republican promises on the campaign trail shouldn’t be mistaken for actual policy if those candidates are elected, Obama said.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released Monday found two-thirds of Americans support the U.S. joining an international pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A narrow majority of Republicans are opposed.

Obama reiterated his position that carbon emissions should carry a price tag.

“I have long believed that the most elegant way to drive innovation and reduce carbon emissions is to put a price” on carbon, he said in Paris. “If you put a price on it then the entire market would respond and the best investments and the smartest technologies would begin scrubbing, effectively, our entire economy. But it’s difficult.”

Congress failed to pass legislation in Obama’s first term that would have created a market for carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system, which Obama said would help drive technological innovation to reduce pollution.

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