Energy & Environment

Obama hails ‘best shot’ to save the planet as climate deal approved

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President Obama Wednesday celebrated the imminent implementation of the Paris climate agreement, calling it the world’s best chance to stop the worst effects of global warming.

Obama spoke at the White House at a hastily planned event that came together just as the United Nations is receiving final ratifications from enough countries to allow it to take force in November.

{mosads}“Today is a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations,” Obama said in a short speech.

“Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge as a turning point for our planet.”

The president used the speech to celebrate all of the climate change and clean energy milestones throughout his time in office, like the Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from the power sector and the Recovery Act’s funding for wind and solar generation.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the most significant climate action by Obama, stands in limbo, after a Supreme Court decision halted its enforcement while it is litigated.

Additionally, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has promised to undo all of Obama’s climate policies and “cancel” the Paris agreement.

But despite those clouds over his legacy, Obama saw reason to celebrate the Paris pact and to boast about the leading diplomatic role he and his administration played in finishing the deal.

“The Paris agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go. But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change,” he said.

“This gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.”

Under the pact, Obama promised that the United States would cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

That promise, as well as the limits on emissions that nearly 200 other countries submitted for the agreement, are not binding under international law.

Instead, when the agreement takes effect Nov. 4, only a new emission reporting regime will be implemented in a binding way.

The United Nations is expecting to receive ratification documents before the end of Wednesday from the European Union, Canada and Nepal. That would put the pact over the threshold of countries representing 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

After a 30-day waiting period, the agreement will take force.

That would make it much more difficult for Trump to completely undo the agreement if he is elected. But since the emission cuts are not binding, he could still refuse to comply.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also celebrated Wednesday.

“I am delighted to announce that today the Paris Agreement will cross the second and final threshold needed for entry into force, and will enter into force on Nov. 4,” he said in a statement.

“Global momentum for the Paris agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable,” Ban said.

“Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation is essential to meet the climate challenge.”

Environmentalists also cheered.

“This is a historic day. Today’s developments are yet more powerful evidence of the momentum for climate action,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “Countries, states, cities, and communities are already dealing with the devastating impacts of climate change and understand the urgency of this challenge.”

Opponents of the deal, including congressional Republicans, blasted Wednesday’s milestone as another step toward implementing a harmful deal.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement that the deal would be “disastrous” to the economy.

“The abundant, low-cost energy that we have unlocked will now be shut in the ground, eliminating the economic growth and jobs that come with development,” he said. “The result will be higher energy costs for Americans — which will be especially painful for the poorest among us.”

Ryan also criticized Obama for entering the agreement without Senate ratification, which he said violates the Constitution.

Updated at 4:28 p.m.

Tags Climate change Donald Trump Paris agreement Paul Ryan
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