Obama sprints into his final years with an expanding climate message

Source: Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

President Obama is charging into his term’s fourth quarter in a climate sprint. In the last week, he talked about cutting gasoline subsidies in Asia, urged young Australians to pressure skeptical politicians and accepted a knotty adaptation report for U.S. cities.

Those efforts came amid major announcements on a pact with China to control greenhouse gases and a $3 billion proposal to strengthen poor countries against climate impacts. Together, it signals the maneuvering of an administration that’s trying to take a lead role in upcoming international climate negotiations. It also marks a challenge to the rising Republican majority in Congress.John Podesta, Obama’s climate counselor, told reporters yesterday that the administration will “keep pushing forward on all fronts” to tackle climbing temperatures. The administration is confident that the GOP-controlled Congress, to begin in January, can’t derail its forthcoming rules to reduce emissions at power plants, despite promises by Republican leaders to make it a top target.”I don’t believe they can stop us from doing that,” Podesta said of the rules being finalized by U.S. EPA.

The president has now expanded his public profile to include the international negotiations, which begin next month in Lima, Peru, and culminate in Paris a year later. Podesta described the deal with China as a “jolt of energy” for the climate talks.

“We have to work to complete action on the international front and get, you know, everyone in the game there,” Podesta said. “I think with the Chinese stepping out the way they did, we’ll have more ability to do that.”

During the weekend in Brisbane, Australia, Obama said at the Group of 20 summit that his pact with China shows other nations that there’s “no excuse” for failing to hammer out a treaty now that the world’s largest emitters are taking action to address carbon dioxide.

He also appeared to take a friendly jab at his host, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who campaigned before his election last year to dissolve Australia’s carbon tax. Abbott kept his promise. Obama, speaking at the University of Queensland on Saturday, urged the student audience to stand up against politicians and businesses that preserve the use of fossil fuels.

“Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable,” Obama said. “But that is not going to happen unless you are heard.”

Keeping climate ‘front of mind’

A day after Obama returned from his trip across the Pacific, the administration turned to domestic climate policies. Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden received a report by a White House task force comprising 26 local officials that offered 100 recommendations to strengthen adaptation.

The report delves into detailed suggestions about how federal programs could be improved to reduce risky development, enhance infrastructure and prepare communities overall for sharper climate impacts.

One recommendation urges the administration to promote “climate smart land-use” by rewarding local governments that build farther from shorelines, adopt strong building standards and prohibit the construction of cri