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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Obama lays out national plan to fight climate change
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 25, 2013


Climate plan boosts US global role: Kerry
Kuwait City (AFP) June 25, 2013 - A long-awaited climate change plan by President Barack Obama shows that the United States is serious on the problem and that other nations should do more, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.

Kerry, who as a senator led a previous failed effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, said the proposal being laid out by Obama "will send ripples internationally" about the US commitment to fighting climate change.

"Decisive action at home empowers us to make more progress internationally on a shared challenge," Kerry said in a statement issued as he visited major oil producer Kuwait.

"Climate change cannot be solved by one nation alone. The global community must step up. I raise this issue everywhere I travel, in every meeting," he said.

The United States has long faced international criticism for inaction on climate change, with China and India resenting calls by the wealthier nation for international mandates on cutting emissions.

Kerry spoke at length on climate change during a Sunday visit to India, saying record hot temperatures and increasingly severe natural disasters showed that the problem was "screaming" for action.

Obama and President Xi Jinping of China, which has surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter of the gases blamed for climate change, also agreed this month to phase out carbon-intensive hydrofluorocarbons found in air conditioners and refrigerators.

Kerry, a former presidential candidate and senator from Massachusetts, tried for months in 2009-2010 to win support for legislation that would impose the nation's first mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions.

The plan failed, with lawmakers, mostly from the rival Republican Party, saying such action would be too expensive and raising doubts about the science behind climate change.

Obama this time will largely bypass Congress and impose tighter regulations on power plants, a move that could face legal challenges and which some environmentalists say is already insufficent.

EU praises Obama's climate change plan
Brussels (AFP) June 25, 2013 - The European Commision on Tuesday praised a new broad plan to fight climate change unveiled by US President Barack Obama, including restrictions to curb carbon emissions and incentives to foster clean energy sources.

"I very much welcome President Obama's renewed push to tackle global climate change. The plans set out today are positive steps that will create further momentum for international climate action, " said Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.

Barroso called the European Union "a confident climate leader" which already is reducing emissions considerably and expanding on renewables and saving energy.

"Climate action can be a tremendous opportunity to modernise our economies, create jobs and growth, and invest in the dynamic industries of the future," he added.

"Finding global solutions to the climate challenge is a shared responsibility," he said. "President Obama's announcement will help give the world confidence that it's possible to win this fight, if we fight it together."

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday laid out a broad new plan to fight climate change, using executive powers to get around "flat earth" science deniers who have blocked action in Congress.

Obama called for new restrictions on existing and new power plants to curb carbon emissions, pledged to push new generation clean energy sources and to lead a fresh global effort to stem global warming.

Officials said the plan would allow the United States to meet a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, a pledge Obama made at the inconclusive Copenhagen summit in 2009.

Obama argued that Americans across the country were already paying the "price of inaction" against climate change, describing 2012 as the warmest year in human history, which parched farmlands in the US heartland.

"As a president, as a father, and as an American, I am here to say, we need to act," Obama said, in a speech delivered in the sweltering early afternoon heat outside Georgetown University, with an eye on his political legacy.

Obama said he had no patience for climate change deniers, including many in Congress, who dispute the science holding that carbon dioxide emissions contribute to a dangerously warming planet.

"We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society," he said.

"Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it is not going to protect you from the coming storm."

Obama also touched on the Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to carry oil from the tar sands of Canada to the US Gulf Coast, and has become a cause celebre for environmentalists.

He warned the project, currently under State Department review to determine whether it is in the US national interest, should not be approved if it contributes to global warming.

"Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," Obama said.

The president is widely expected to approve the long-delayed project when it reaches his desk. The State Department has already concluded in a draft report that it would not significantly harm the environment.

Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday he was confident the project would get approved, insisting there would not be "any increase in emissions as a result of the construction of the pipeline."

Environmentalists, however, insist the pipeline would lead to the expansion of tar sands extraction in Alberta -- a process they say creates the "dirtiest" oil on Earth.

Obama's plan is based on a three-pronged approach : cutting carbon pollution in the United States, mitigating the impact of climate change, and seeking international action to address it.

Obama committed to withdrawing support for coal-fired power plants abroad and offered to discuss new initiatives with big emitters like India and China.

He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to write rules to impose new standards for carbon emissions on new and existing power plants.

The plan calls for $8 billion in loan guarantees to support investments in innovative technologies and aims for a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency in commercial, industrial and residential buildings.

Some opponents of his approach have warned that the plan could result in older coal-fired plants being taken offline and may thereby raise electricity prices for consumers, which could disproportionately hurt the poor.

Officials counter that the plan will reduce the amount of electricity used -- thereby reducing fuel bills.

The specifics of much of his plan were unclear, and many of Obama's new rules could face court challenges that would delay their implementation.

The president will be using the executive powers of his office since Congress -- where there is widespread skepticism of climate change science and fear about the economic impact of mitigation efforts -- has refused to act.

Obama also set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by three billion metric tons by 2030 -- a figure equivalent to more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the US energy sector.

Climate and environmental groups praised Obama's speech in advance.

Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said his speech was an "important step in the journey to end industrial carbon pollution."

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, welcomed Obama's "personal leadership."

But he warned: "Without the support of Congress for new federal legislation, the president is fighting this battle with one hand tied behind his back."

And Bill Snape, of the Washington-based Center for Biological Diversity, said what Obama was proposing "isn't big enough, and doesn't move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis."

Republicans meanwhile accused Obama of waging a "war on coal" that would slap onerous regulations and unreasonable environmental targets on power stations -- a few shared by some Democrats.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, from the coal-producing state of West Virginia, said Obama's plan would have "disastrous consequences" for the recovering economy.

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