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

President Obama takes questions from the media in the East Room of the White House on June 29, 2011.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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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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