GOP Knives Come Out Against US-China Carbon Pact, Paris Climate Talks

A day after President Obama touted the deal with China on Capitol Hill, a Senate amendment would declare it null and void.

Sen. James Inhofe
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Jan. 21, 2015, 7:49 a.m.

Two prom­in­ent Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans have launched a polit­ic­al as­sault on Pres­id­ent Obama’s re­cent cli­mate pact with China, an ef­fort that ar­rives the morn­ing after Obama high­lighted the deal in his State of the Uni­on speech.

Sens. Roy Blunt and James In­hofe on Wed­nes­day floated a “sense of the Sen­ate” amend­ment to Key­stone pipeline le­gis­la­tion de­clar­ing that the pact reached in Novem­ber has “no force and ef­fect” in the U.S.

White House of­fi­cials say the bi­lat­er­al agree­ment is provid­ing mo­mentum for wider glob­al cli­mate talks. “[B]ecause the world’s two largest eco­nom­ies came to­geth­er, oth­er na­tions are now step­ping up and of­fer­ing hope that this year the world will fi­nally reach an agree­ment to pro­tect the one plan­et we’ve got,” Obama said in his speech Tues­day night.

The new GOP amend­ment fore­shad­ows a fight over the cli­mate ac­cord that dip­lo­mats hope to reach at make-or-break United Na­tions talks in Par­is late this year.

The non­bind­ing Sen­ate meas­ure says that both the U.S.-China pact and U.S. agree­ment with the hoped-for Par­is deal would re­quire Sen­ate ap­prov­al.

The emer­ging ar­chi­tec­ture of the in­ter­na­tion­al cli­mate pact that ne­go­ti­at­ors plan to com­plete in Par­is would stop short of a form­al new treaty that re­quires Sen­ate sign-off, which is a near-im­possible pro­spect.

Blunt bashed the U.S.-China deal on the Sen­ate floor Wed­nes­day. “We think this is a bad deal, Sen­at­or In­hofe and I, and I think many oth­ers will join us. A bad deal for our coun­try, it’s eco­nom­ic­ally un­fair, it is en­vir­on­ment­ally ir­re­spons­ible,” said Blunt, who is vice chair­man of the Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence. In­hofe heads the Sen­ate’s En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee.

China, the world’s largest green­house-gas emit­ter, agreed to a peak in its soar­ing car­bon emis­sions in 2030 at the latest, and also vowed to sharply in­crease use of car­bon-free fuels to reach 20 per­cent of its en­ergy con­sump­tion by 2030.

The U.S., the world’s second-biggest pol­luter, pledged to cut green­house-gas emis­sions by 26-28 per­cent be­low 2005 levels by 2025, build­ing on the ex­ist­ing tar­get of a 17 per­cent cut by 2020. Obama and Chinese Pres­id­ent Xi Jin­ping an­nounced the plan in Beijing in Novem­ber after months of quiet, high-level talks between the na­tions.

“In Beijing, we made a his­tor­ic an­nounce­ment: The United States will double the pace at which we cut car­bon pol­lu­tion. And China com­mit­ted, for the first time, to lim­it­ing their emis­sions,” Obama said in the State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

Blunt said he wants a vote on the plan, but law­makers from both parties have filed dozens of amend­ments to le­gis­la­tion to ap­prove the Key­stone XL pipeline, and its not clear which meas­ures will ul­ti­mately re­ceive votes.

The amend­ment calls the U.S.-China cli­mate plan a raw deal for the U.S. that will boost power prices and hinder man­u­fac­tur­ing and oth­er in­dus­tries, while China’s emis­sions are al­lowed to con­tin­ue rising for years to come.

But U.S. of­fi­cials say the deal will re­quire China to take near-term steps to en­sure the sweep­ing trans­form­a­tion of its en­ergy sec­tor pledged un­der the agree­ment.

“To meet its goal, China will need to de­ploy an ad­di­tion­al 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of nuc­le­ar, wind, sol­ar, and oth­er re­new­able gen­er­a­tion ca­pa­city by 2030 — an enorm­ous amount, about the same as all the coal-fired power plants in China today, and nearly as much as the total elec­tri­city gen­er­a­tion ca­pa­city of the United States,” Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said in a Novem­ber op-ed tout­ing the pact.

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