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Climate Issues For Obama In 2011

December 31, 2010

President Barack Obama and his administration will enter 2011 pushing for new regulations and diplomacy to fight climate change, but will have to deal with stiff challenges from opponents, according to AFP reports.

The year ends with moderate progress toward a global deal on climate change during the UN-led summit in Cancun, Mexico, where top carbon emitters such as the United States and China finally agreed to move forward.

But US supporters of the deal had their hopes crushed, when a proposal to create a first nationwide “cap-and-trade” plan to restrict greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s largest economy failed in the Senate.

The Obama administration, however, is still taking action on its own. Beginning on January 2, US authorities will consider greenhouse gases when approving emission levels for new large industrial plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on December 23 it would go a step further starting in 2012 by setting greenhouse gas standards for power plants and petroleum refineries — which account for a combined 40 percent of emissions that cause climate change.

But when the Republican Party takes charge of the House of Representatives in January, President Obama, a Democrat, can expect even more hostility toward his climate agenda.

Representative Fred Upton-Rep. of Michigan, who will head the new House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the United States should be “working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down” to protect jobs.

“We will not allow the administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” said Upton. “This Christmas surprise is nothing short of a back-door attempt to implement their failed job-killing cap-and-trade scheme.”

The Obama administration insists that it is only setting standards, such as green technology, and not imposing numeric caps on emissions as foreseen under most cap-and-trade proposals. The administration argues that a shift to green energy would create, not reduce, jobs by opening a new area of growth in the shaky economy.

Democrats narrowly retain control of the Senate, and Obama can still fight any legislative efforts to weaken regulation on climate change. But several Republicans have vowed to fight down a key US promise in international negotiations to contribute to poor countries seen as suffering the worst effects of climate change.

The Green Climate Fund, set up during the Cancun Climate Summit, is led by pledges of 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 from the European Union, Japan and the United States, which will be used to help those poor countries suffering from climate changes. The Obama administration fought successfully in Cancun to put the World Bank in charge of the Green Climate Fund.

The financial pledges were “extremely important” and “a core part of the deal,” Todd Stern, chief US climate negotiator, tolf AFP’s Shaun Tandon. “Obviously, the fiscal situation is exceedingly tough in the US. It’s tough in Europe and other places as well. And we are going to have to do the best we possibly can to carry out” the promises, he said.

India said it would consider a future binding deal on climate change, and China, which has continued its opposition, did promise to show more flexibility.

The US state of California approved its own cap-and-trade system after voters rejected a referendum supported by the oil industry to suspend air pollution control laws.

By contrast, oil-producing Texas — the biggest carbon pollution state — has refused to abide by federal guidelines on emissions, leading the Obama administration to take over its permit system.

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