Global clean energy push will spur GOP on climate — Obama

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, December 21, 2015

President Obama predicted today the climate agreement hatched in Paris would drive clean energy investments capable of nudging Congress toward action on global warming.

While slamming Republicans for their doubts about climate science, the president also expressed confidence the GOP would change its tune.

“My sense is this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short-term politics in a Republican Party,” Obama said in a year-end press conference before the first family’s holiday trip to Hawaii. “It’s not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long term.”

The Paris agreement calls on nations to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius and says countries will “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. The deal also requires countries to update their emission-reduction pledges by 2020 and every five years afterward.

Obama credited the United States for leading world nations to the Paris climate change agreement, calling the U.S. role in the negotiations a form of American exceptionalism.

The administration early on set the basic principle that all parties must contribute to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Obama cited the U.S. joint announcement with China to reduce CO2 levels as a key step toward reaching the final agreement.

While Obama predicted that a Democratic president would be chosen next year, he also said he was confident in the deal’s success regardless of presidential politics.

“What I think people should also feel good about is that the agreement struck in Paris, although not legally binding when it comes to the targets that had been set, does create this architecture in which, all around the world, countries are saying this is where we’re going,” he said. “We’re going to be chasing after this clean energy future.”

Obama also gave some credit to Congress for advancing his climate priorities in the spending and tax package.

“What you saw in this budget, which I think was really significant, was an extension of the solar tax credits and wind tax credits that we had helped to really boost early on in my administration,” Obama said, boasting increases in both sectors.

Language in the agreement, which passed both chambers this morning, would extend both production and investment tax credits. Obama said that “combination of market signals” brought by the Paris agreement and the budget deal would draw more investment from businesses in the private sector.

“They know this is coming, and it’s not just coming here, it’s coming around the world,” he said. “So you now have a global marketplace that is stable and accelerating over the course of the next decade.”

Obama likened Republican complaints about the Paris deal to concerns decades ago over the costs of Clean Air Act provisions. He said that cleaner air is “a lot less expensive than everyone expected and it happens a lot faster than expected.”

The president said Republicans generally were “outliers” on climate change science compared with nations around the globe.

“Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments,” he said. “Even the far-right parties in many of these parties — they might not like immigrants, for example — but they admit, yeah, the science tells us we’ve got to do something about climate change.”

But while Obama said that he expected the Republican Party as a whole to come around on climate change as the market for clean energy grows, the president also predicted that Paris will figure high into campaigning next year.

“Do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going to stop Paris in its tracks? There will probably be a lot of noise like that,” Obama said. “Do I actually think that two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will.”

Reporter Hannah Hess contributed.