UK official: Obama needs to ‘put his money where his mouth is’ on climate

A senior official from the United Kingdom is calling out President Obama on climate change, alleging the president hasn’t put enough political capital into battling global warming.

The comments by Greg Barker, the minister of state for energy and climate change, are an unusually blunt assessment of the White House's climate record from a key ally.

“We need Obama not just to make speeches, but he needs to put his money where his mouth is and invest political capital domestically,” Barker said in London Tuesday, according to Bloomberg

“Unless the U.S. joins with the rest of the world and shows real leadership on this green agenda, we are not going to get a global agreement,” he said.

The comments come ahead of the next round of United Nations climate change talks that begin next week in Durban, South Africa.

The U.S. currently lacks binding greenhouse gas emissions cuts, which have been among the many factors that have sapped hopes for a global climate treaty in recent years.

Obama, speaking in Australia about climate change earlier this month, said cutting emissions can provide economic benefits, while arguing that China and India must also face commitments under any international deal.

“So part of our insistence when we are in multilateral forum — and I will continue to insist on this when we go to Durban — is that if we are taking a series of steps, then it’s important that emerging economies like China and India are also part of the bargain,” Obama said.

Resistance from China, the world’s largest emitter, to binding cuts has been a sticking point in international talks.

“Unless the U.S. joins with the rest of the world and shows real leadership on this green agenda, we are not going to get a global agreement,” Barker said.

“There hasn’t, I believe, been a concerted political effort by the administration at a time when there was an opportunity potentially to push the agenda forward. Not acting then proved to be a huge loss," Barker said, according to Bloomberg.

Obama has had mixed results on green energy and climate change. Administration officials point to major increases in auto efficiency standards that will reduce emissions, and expanded investment in green energy research and projects, among other accomplishments.

But climate change legislation collapsed in the Senate last year, and some environmentalists felt that Obama didn’t put enough political muscle behind the bill.

The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, is moving ahead with greenhouse gas regulations after the Bush administration refused to do so.

EPA is preparing to float first-time emissions standards for power plants and refineries, but the rules have been delayed. The agency currently plans to propose the power plant rules early next year.

This post was updated at 11:03 a.m.