Climate envoy: GOP votes aren’t hurting Paris talks

Climate envoy: GOP votes aren’t hurting Paris talks
© Getty Images

The Obama administration’s top negotiator for the Paris climate talks said congressional votes against the White House’s environmental agenda aren’t hurting the United States’ position.

Todd Stern, the State Department’s special envoy for climate change, told reporters in Paris on Wednesday that he’s fielded questions about the Republican-backed votes from other diplomats, but he’s assured them that President Obama’s policies will stand.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stern made the remarks a day after the House voted to overturn two landmark Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that require power plants to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

“I don’t actually think that has much of an effect here,” Stern told reporters. Obama plans to veto both measures.

“It produces questions, so I have had countries ask me about, but what I have said is that the Clean Power Plan rule is going to go forward,” he said.

“The president’s not going to accept such resolutions, and we are entirely confident that the Clean Power Plan will go forward. And so, to the extent that I’m asked — I’ve been asked once or twice — I just explain that.”

Because of Obama’s veto threat, Congress's action was largely symbolic, timed to coincide with the opening days of the Paris talks.

The GOP wants to send a signal to world leaders that Obama’s pledge to cut the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent cannot be met because the power plant rules will be overturned, be it by the next president, Congress or the federal courts.

“The message could not be more clear that Republican and Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House do not support the president’s climate agenda and the international community should take note,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

The Senate passed similar resolutions in November.

It’s just one tactic Republicans are using to try to derail the United Nations talks, where negotiators are trying to reach an international agreement to combat climate change. That deal is not likely to impose legally binding emissions cuts, however, because some countries, including the U.S., do not think they could approve such an accord.