Friday, December 12, 2014

'War on coal' gets cheers at climate-change talks; Kerry gets jeers from McConnell

A package of rules to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-burning electric plants is "one of President Obama’s most contentious domestic decisions" but has turned the U.S. from "one of the world's worst actors" on the issue to a catalyst for what could be the first global agreement to cut the emissions blamed for climate change, reports Coral Davenport of The New York Times.

Davenport writes from Lima, Peru, where global negotiations about climate change are concluding: "American negotiators are being met with something wildly unfamiliar: cheers, applause, thanks and praise," because of Obama's "June announcement that he would use his executive authority to push through an aggressive set of regulations on coal-fired power plants. . . . The enthusiastic reception on climate issues comes a month after a historic announcement by the United States and China, the world’s two largest polluters, that they would jointly commit to cut their emissions."

Obama's plan "set off a firestorm of legal, political and legislative opposition at home," Davenport notes. "Critics have called it a 'war on coal' that could devastate the American economy. But in the arena of international climate change negotiations, it has fundamentally transformed the feeling toward his administration."

John Kerry, making the first appearance by a secretary of state at such talks, didn't mince words when talking about coal plants, saying, "We’re going to take a bunch of them out of commission." His former colleague in the Senate, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, says he will attack the proposed rules through appropriations bills. "Despite the new Republican majority in the Senate, it appears unlikely that Mr. McConnell will be able to summon the votes necessary to repeal Mr. Obama’s rules—a point that American negotiators are making repeatedly here," Davenport writes.

McConnell fired back in a press release: "He was not speaking for Congress, and when I am Senate majority leader in January, the international community will have no doubt about that. It will soon be very clear that Congress disagrees not only with the EPA’s unilateral actions but also with the Administration’s entire international crusade against coal jobs. . . . Given the change in management that’s coming to the Senate, overseas audiences may want to proceed with caution when it comes to Secretary Kerry’s recommendations and comments.”

No comments: