Obama Says Paris Climate Deal Will Last Despite Republicans

  • World committed to a `clean-energy future,' Obama says
  • U.S. spending plan helps transition to clean fuels, he says

President Barack Obama said a deal reached in Paris this month to reduce global carbon emissions will survive opposition by Republicans in Congress and in the presidential race.

“The agreement struck in Paris, though not legally binding when it comes to the targets that have been set, does create this architecture in which all around the world countries are saying, ‘this is where we’re going -- we’re going to be chasing this clean-energy future,’” Obama said at a news conference on Friday.

He said he expects a Democrat to succeed him in the White House. "I actually think that two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress" will view the Paris deal favorably, he said.

U.S. Republicans are the only major political party in the world "that effectively denies climate change," Obama said. "It’s an outlier."

The Paris agreement for the first time commits almost 200 countries to curbing carbon pollution in an effort to fight climate change, a signature achievement of Obama’s second term. As part of the deal, Obama pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions by 26 to 28 percent over the next 15 years.

Chinese Accord

Obama spent much of his second term urging other world leaders to make bolder commitments to reducing carbon emissions, and a breakthrough agreement with the Chinese announced in November 2014 provided key momentum going into the Paris talks. Obama has also sought to elevate the issue with the American public, including a four-day trip to Alaska in September during which he taped an episode of the survivalist reality show “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” that aired Thursday night.

A fiscal 2016 spending plan for the U.S. government agreed to by Congress this week will help further a transition to cleaner fuels by extending tax credits for domestic wind and solar energy production, Obama said, in step with similar moves by other countries.

"That combination of market signals will mean the private sector will invest much more heavily," he said.

The president won another victory when Democratic negotiators thwarted Republican efforts to insert language into a fiscal 2016 spending plan that would have prevented the administration from contributing to an international fund to help developing nations combat and adjust to climate change. The U.S. has committed to provide $3 billion for the fund over the next five years.

Avoiding Congress

Republicans had hoped to make any funding contingent on a Senate review of the Paris agreement. The accord doesn’t formally bind nations to their commitments, in part so Obama can avoid needing confirmation of the pact by the Republican-controlled Senate, some of whose members question whether human activity is affecting the climate.

Polling suggests the American public is broadly supportive of efforts to combat climate change, although support tends to be along party lines. Two-thirds of those surveyed in a New York Times/CBS News poll released at the end of November said they support the U.S. joining a binding treaty to tackle climate change. A separate Washington Post-ABC News poll in November showed nearly 6 in 10 Republicans surveyed said global warming wasn’t a serious problem and fewer than a quarter supported more government action.

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