President Obama said Saturday that with the U.S. at the helm, the world must come together later this year and strike a groundbreaking climate-change accord or the planet as we know it may cease to exist.
In his weekly address, the president raised the stakes for a key United Nations gathering in Paris later this year, where the U.S., China and other world leaders hope to strike the largest international climate change deal in history. The U.S. contribution to the agreement is a pledge to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 26 percent percent by 2030, while China will formally promise to cap its pollution levels by 2030 and then begin gradual reductions.
But Mr. Obama’s climate agenda faces stiff resistance at home. While powerful energy groups and lawmakers of both parties remain deeply opposed to many of his environmental actions, the president has begun to frame the issue as not about domestic politics but about saving the world.
“There’s new hope that, with American leadership, this year the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late,” he said. “This is an issue that’s bigger and longer-lasting than my presidency. It’s about protecting our God-given natural wonders and the good jobs that rely on them. It’s about shielding our cities and our families from disaster and harm. It’s about keeping our kids healthy and safe. This is the only planet we’ve got. And years from now, I want to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could to protect it.”
Mr. Obama will travel to the Florida Everglades on Wednesday to continue to push his climate agenda, which centers on improving energy efficiency, raising auto fuel standards and, most importantly, imposing unprecedented restrictions on emissions from power plants.
The power plant rules form the basis for Mr. Obama’s broader plan and are critical if the administration hopes to achieve the ambitious emissions cuts it is aiming for.
But the emissions proposal — formally known as the Clean Power Plan and due to be finalized this summer — is coming under fire from all sides. The plan came before a federal appeals court earlier this week with leading energy companies and more than a dozen states bringing lawsuits and arguing the regulations should be tossed.
Republicans on Capitol Hill also are moving new legislation to slow implementation of the plan, potentially dealing a major setback to Mr. Obama’s hopes of leading the world to a historic climate accord.
Republicans say the looming Environmental Protection Agency regulations should be implemented more slowly and contend that the only reason to rush them through is to help secure the president’s “legacy.”
“Why is EPA, at the direction of the president, rushing it through? EPA obviously wants this completed before the 2016 elections. Is it being done to create a legacy in the international arena for President Obama?” Rep. Ed Whitfield, Kentucky Republican, said at a House hearing on the EPA proposal earlier this week.