Sun, Nov 08, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Obama quashes Keystone XL project

‘LEAD BY EXAMPLE’:f the US comes up short on climate change, other nations such as China would start backing out of their commitments, analysts said


Demonstrators hold up signs in front of the White House in Washington on Friday.

Photo: AFP

For years, US President Barack Obama chided Republicans and Democrats alike for treating the Keystone XL pipeline as a signal of whether the US would seriously fight global warming.

Now that he has killed the project, Obama is holding it up as Exhibit A as he works to lock in his environmental legacy with a powerful international climate accord.

Rejecting the proposed 1,897km crude oil pipeline from Canada to the US is the latest in a long and growing list of steps Obama has taken to try to show the US is leading the effort against global warming.

Even while Republicans have fought Obama tooth-and-nail at home, he has sought to use those steps to pressure other nations into taking similar action — especially poorer, developing nations that for years have argued that climate change is not their problem.

At the center of Obama’s efforts are landmark carbon dioxide emissions limits on US power plants that have been cheered by environmentalists but derided by most energy advocates. Although the rules are proceeding for the time being, they face an uncertain future. Half the US’ states are suing to try to block them.

“There has been a steady drumbeat of steps the president has taken that are more impactful for climate change, factually, than Keystone,” White House communications director Jen Psaki said. “Our view is that we need to continue to lead by example. Is that difficult? Yes, of course it is.”

If the power plant rules falter, Obama would be hard-pressed to secure the 26 to 28 percent cut in US emissions that he has pledged as the US’ commitment to the climate treaty.

If the US comes up short, analysts predict, other countries like China would start backing out.

Obama is counting on the climate treaty — to be finalized early next month in Paris — to vault him into a category of his own — the first US president to treat climate change like a top-tier issue, and the first to secure the type of commitments from other nations needed to address the problem significantly.

To that end, Obama’s many executive steps to reduce greenhouse gases have been designed in part to maximize his leverage when he negotiates overseas.

Aside from the power plant rules, Obama has ramped up fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, taking aim at one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. His administration has also moved to curb emissions from methane, hydrofluorocarbons and other pollutants while providing more federal dollars for renewable energy sources like wind, hydro and solar.

In addition, in the run-up to Paris, Obama struck major climate deals with China, hoping that a commitment by the world’s largest polluter to cut emissions would make it impossible for other developing nations like India and Brazil to beg off making commitments of their own. China, which is still building coal plants to fuel growing power consumption, plans to max out its carbon emissions in about 2030, if not sooner.

World leaders have been working for years to hash out what they hope is to be the most sweeping and powerful pact ever reached on global warming. Although the initial deal is to include pledges by nations that extend through 2030, negotiators are wrangling over mechanisms to ensure countries revisit and ramp up their commitments for the rest of the century.

However, while prospects for finishing a deal in Paris are high, already there are growing doubts about whether the pact is set to go far enough to avert the worst effects of climate change and concerns about its durability. Facing bleak prospects for getting a Republican-controlled US Congress to ratify a climate treaty, Obama is pursuing a deal that would not require a formal congressional sign-off, a strategy that reflects the challenges many other world leaders face in securing domestic support for tough action on climate.

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