Obama: Climate Plan Will Help U.S. Negotiate With China, India

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President Obama takes questions from the media in the East Room of the White House on June 29, 2011.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Jan. 23, 2014, 8:16 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama is un­der no il­lu­sion that U.S. cli­mate policies alone can rein in glob­al warm­ing. In newly pub­lished com­ments in The New York­er, Obama says they’re cru­cial to work­ing with China and In­dia, the world’s largest and third-largest green­house-gas emit­ters (the U.S. is No. 2).

“This is why I’m put­ting a big pri­or­ity on our car­bon ac­tion plan here. It’s not be­cause I’m ig­nor­ant of the fact that these emer­ging coun­tries are go­ing to be a big­ger prob­lem than us. It’s be­cause it’s very hard for me to get in that con­ver­sa­tion if we’re mak­ing no ef­fort,” Obama said.

“And it’s not an an­swer for us to say, well, since the Chinese and the In­di­ans are the big­ger prob­lem, we might as well not even both­er,” Obama adds.

The com­ments come as Re­pub­lic­ans say the White House policies — not­ably planned car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for power plants — will scarcely make a dent world­wide when green­house emis­sions in China, In­dia, and oth­er de­vel­op­ing na­tions are soar­ing.

U.S. car­bon emis­sions, in con­trast, have fallen in re­cent years and are about 10 per­cent be­low their 2005 levels, al­though they ticked up slightly in 2013.

Obama’s com­ments are some of his most ex­tens­ive on en­ergy and cli­mate since he rolled out his second-term glob­al-warm­ing agenda last June.

In The New York­er, he em­phas­izes the need to share U.S. R & D on low-emis­sions coal tech­no­lo­gies with China and In­dia. He also says the U.S. gas-drilling boom can be part of the solu­tion on cli­mate glob­ally — if meth­ane emis­sions and oth­er con­cerns are ad­dressed.

“If it’s not done cor­rectly, the meth­ane emis­sions are pro­found. There could be, ob­vi­ously, en­vir­on­ment­al con­sequences if some of the chem­ic­als in­volved seep in­to the ground­wa­ter,” Obama said.

“But, if we can get that right, then for us to see nat­ur­al gas sup­plant coal around the world the same way it’s hap­pen­ing here in the United States, that’s a net plus,” he said.

The com­ments are an­oth­er re­mind­er of the split between the White House and some en­vir­on­ment­al­ists on en­ergy, and Obama ac­know­ledges as much by not­ing “some­times I get in­to ar­gu­ments with en­vir­on­ment­al­ists on something like car­bon cap­ture or nat­ur­al gas.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is much more bullish on U.S. oil and gas de­vel­op­ment than ma­jor green groups, who this month urged the White House to ditch it’s “all of the above” en­ergy policy that em­phas­izes do­mest­ic fossil fuels along­side the green en­ergy sources that act­iv­ists em­brace.

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