- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2014

President Obama on Thursday doubled down on his quest to save the world from climate change, urging every nation to “do its share” to reduce carbon emissions and follow the highly controversial path the White House is forging here in the U.S.

But even as Mr. Obama uses executive authority to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, there’s no guarantee countries such as China — the world’s largest offender when it comes to carbon pollution — will follow suit, and the president’s previous attempts to lead a worldwide global warming initiative have ended in disappointment.

Now, with Britain, France, Canada and other nations at his side, Mr. Obama is fully reviving the effort. At a G-7 meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the group, with Mr. Obama leading the way, said it is committed to adopting a “global agreement” next year and taking another stab at uniting the world’s largest economies to confront the challenge head on.

“We agreed at the G-7 to continue to lead by example in the fight against climate change, which poses a danger to our environment, our economies and our national security. I made it clear that the United States will continue to do our part,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron. “We agreed that every nation has to do its share.”

By next March, the G-7 called for a global pact to reduce carbon emissions. Mr. Obama said recent steps by the Environmental Protection Agency provide a blueprint for how that can be accomplished.

Earlier this week, the EPA released 654 pages of new regulations on existing power plants, designed to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with smaller, interim targets along the way.

SEE ALSO: Kentucky’s Grimes takes swing at Obama’s new coal rules

The plan — which delegates to states the responsibility of figuring out exactly how to meet the goals — sparked a firestorm within the energy industry and among lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill, who argue it will lead to the end of the U.S. coal industry while also driving up electricity bills for consumers.

Supporters argue it’s necessary both for the environmental health of America and to show global leadership on the issue, since the U.S. remains one of the largest carbon polluters on Earth.

The U.S. was the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2012, responsible for 14 percent of all such pollution worldwide, according to the Global Carbon Project, run by climate researchers at the University of East Anglia.

The European Union was third, pumping 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases into the air.

China is far and away No. 1, contributing 27 percent of global emissions in 2012, more than the U.S. and EU combined.

For that reason, critics have blasted Mr. Obama’s carbon emission restrictions as essentially useless if China and other major emitters such as India refuse to take similar steps.

A day after the EPA power-plant announcement, He Jiankun, who chairs China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, said China over the next several years would set new caps on carbon emissions. Mr. He soon backtracked, saying he wasn’t speaking for the government.

Mr. Obama previously tried to rally international partners to action at a 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen. The meeting ended without the kind of sweeping agreement the president had sought, and many pundits and analysts dubbed the effort a failure.

But there seems to be some budding support for the American approach among the international community. United Nations officials, for example, have praised the EPA regulations.

Thursday’s G-7 statement, along with strong words of support from leaders such as Mr. Cameron, indicate the climate change issue may have new life among previously reluctant countries.

Analysts say that’s partly because economies are now relatively stable, unlike in 2009, when the U.S. and other nations teetered on the brink of financial catastrophe and leaders were unwilling to undertake any steps that could hamper growth, cost jobs or lead to a spike in energy bills for their citizens.

“That changes the dialogue around. The kitchen fire is out. Now we can worry about the termites. We can grapple with these long-term problems. That was a conversation, frankly, that was really tough to have five years ago,” said Adele Morris, a fellow and policy director for Climate and Energy Economics at the Brookings Institution who formerly served as a climate negotiator for the State Department under President Clinton.



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