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Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

The GOP is preparing to attack President Obama’s climate change policies on multiple fronts, according to an ominous piece in Politico. That includes banishing his Clean Power Plan to legal limbo, blocking environmental regulations in Congress and spoiling his plans to craft an international climate change agreement at the upcoming Paris summit.

According to a top policy aid to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republican Majority Leader, McConnell has spoken to foreign representatives and warned them that Republicans will oppose any climate change policies the President puts forth. Politico reports that the aid, Neil Chatterjee, is not openly trying to persuade countries to oppose Obama, “though he is informing them about the GOP’s options for undercutting [a climate deal].”

The GOP Wants You to Know Who’s Holding the Money

Environment & Energy Publishing was the first source to report on this political dealing in August, writing that “congressional offices are already calling and meeting with environmental staffers at foreign embassies, making their case that the United States either can or cannot deliver what the White House has promised toward a global deal.” According to Republicans, they’re simply trying to manage foreign governments expectations.

“We have some ability to control the money,” one senior aide told E&E. “But also in terms of the targets, I think it is important to express to some of these international negotiators that two-thirds of the U.S. government — the legislative branch and the judiciary — have not yet signed off on the Clean Power Plan.”

Smokestacks of a Philadelphia refinery. (Source: Creative Commons)

Smokestacks of a Philadelphia refinery. (Source: Creative Commons)

In December, the nations of the world will gather at the Paris Climate Summit, COP21, to discuss policies for international greenhouse gas reduction. It will be the most important – and potentially binding – climate action to occur in history, and the US’s commitment will be crucial to that end. And while President Obama has consistently dedicated his administration to environmental causes, the GOP has consistently opposed both his administration and his causes.

Majority staffers on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee are currently planning to attack the Clean Power Plan in the fall by subjecting it to a Congressional Review. This would allow legislators to put the regulation to a majority vote – one Obama certainly would veto, but not before shaking the international community’s confidence that lasting progress is possible in the USA.

“If they’re going into Paris with this idea that the Clean Power Plan is automatically going to be the law of the land in the U.S., [we are] just trying to educate folks that that is not necessarily the case,” the senior aid told E & E.

Democrats are staging their own counter-offensive. In April, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) met with Laurence Tubiana, France’s special representative for the 21st Conference of the Parties, to discuss climate goals, and his aids have continued to meet with French embassy officials ever since.

“As Senate Republicans threaten to undercut U.S. climate commitments, Sen. Whitehouse would urge our European allies to take a look at the GOP’s record of empty threats,” said Seth Larson, a Whitehouse spokesman.

What Can Republicans Really Do?

President Barack Obama. (Photo Credit: Ari Levinson)

President Barack Obama. (Photo Credit: Ari Levinson)

At home, Sen. McConnell has also written to the governors of all 50 states urging them to ignore the Environmental Protection Agency and its new limits on power plant emissions. These states, on the whole, have ignored the Senator and concentrated on the methods of incorporating the Clean Power Plan into their energy portfolios.

Because a treaty on climate action would absolutely be killed in Congress were it presented for ratification, Obama is likely to pursue a non-binding agreement amongst foreign representatives. This would keep a climate agenda out of the hands of the GOP, though that has not stopped the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee from discussing whether Obama should still have to submit an agreement for their approval.

At the moment, the most the Senate could do to derail Obama’s mission at the COP21 is express their opposition to it, as they did prior to Clinton’s failed ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. However, as Jeremy Rabkin, a George Mason University professor who teaches international law, pointed out Politico, the most Obama can do with an agreement is suggest future presidents also adhere to it. There’s nothing legally binding about it.

In other words, despite Obama’s desire to reduce US emissions by at least 26 percent by 2030, and the US military’s dead certainty that climate change threatens national security, and the international community’s growing opposition to fossil fuels in favor of cleaner, sustainable energy, the Republican party will still be doing their damnedest to keep things the way they are – or worse.

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One Response

  1. Gord James says:

    Obama’s plan does not go nearly far enough.
    To prevent going above 2 degrees, emissions need to be reduced by 8 to 10% per year starting now. Instead the GOP will prevent any reduction or negotiate lower reductions. The problem is that you cannot negotiate with Mother Nature who has biology, chemistry and physics on her side – Robert K Watson

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