April 27, 2009

Congress Crucial To Obama’s Climate Pledge

US President Barack Obama is staying true to his pledge to reverse the environmental policies of the former Bush administration, but Congress will ultimately decide the success of his battle over global warming, the AFP reported.

Michael Levi, climate change expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the president has laid out ambitious goals for climate policy as well as measures promoting environmentally friendly industries.

Earlier this month, the US Environmental Protection Agency set a landmark U-turn that could impact climate change regulation by declaring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a health risk.

Experts have widely blamed global warming for excess greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, that are emitted by cars, aircraft and coal-burning power plants.

About 1.5 million polluters spew about seven billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, and the EPA may put emissions under the jurisdiction of the 1970 Clean Air Act.

The White House said the adoption of a law introducing a ceiling for greenhouse gas emissions as well as a so-called "cap and trade" system would create strong economic incentives to develop new clean energy sources and create millions of new jobs.

President Obama's goal for his first budget proposal is for Congress to create such a market. He has even called for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 14 percent by 2020, compared to their 2005 level.

However, the House of Representatives unveiled draft energy legislation in late March calling for a 20-percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

But the Republican minority, which strongly represents industry and business circles, particularly coal and oil companies, revealed strong opposition to the "cap and trade" principle during Congressional hearings last week.

Influential Republican congressman Mike Pence cited an "independent" study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that insisted an emissions market would cost the average American family 3,128 dollars a year and eventually result in the loss of millions of jobs.

Several centrist Democrats, who argued that the proposals to create a CO2 reduction mechanism should also include such countries as China and India, also voiced their concerns.

Senator Evan Bayh, the leader of a centrist Democratic group, said the current bill would not do that if they don't find a way to include China and India and other developing nations.

"The absence of credible commitments from China, India and other major developing countries would constitute a severe obstacle to climate change legislation in the United States and elsewhere," said Senator Richard Lugar, a moderate Republican from Indiana.

Levi warned that without the support of centrists from both parties the emissions bill had little chance of being adopted.

"The president can be successful if he is patient and pragmatic ... And he showed that he can be both," said Levi.


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