President Obama has vetoed a pair of measures by congressional Republicans that would have overturned the main pillars of his landmark climate change rules for power plants.
The decision was widely expected, and Obama and his staff had repeatedly threatened the action as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.
The White House announced early Saturday morning, as Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he is formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a “pocket veto” under the law. “Climate change poses a profound threat to our future and future generations,” the president said in a statement about Republicans’ attempt to kill the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.
“The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama wrote, adding that “because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our nation, I cannot support it.”
That rule from the Environmental Protection Agency mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon output by 2030.
He had a similar argument in support of his regulation setting carbon limits for newly-built fossil fuel power plants, saying the legislation against it “would delay our transition to cleaner electricity generating technologies by enabling continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting infrastructure.”
Congress passed the resolutions in November and December under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch.
Obama had made clear his intent to veto the measures early on, so the passage by both GOP-led chambers of Congress was only symbolic.
The votes came before and during the United Nations’ major climate change conference in Paris, as an attempt to undermine Obama’s negotiating position toward an international climate pact.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change doubter, said it’s important to send a message about congressional disapproval, even with Obama’s veto.
“While I fully expect these CRA resolutions to be vetoed, without the backing of the American people and the Congress, there will be no possibility of legislative resurrection once the courts render the final judgments on the president’s carbon mandates,” he said on the Senate floor shortly before the Senate’s action on the resolutions.
Twenty-seven states and various energy and business interests are suing the Obama administration to stop the existing plant rule, saying it violates the Clean Air Act and states’ constitutional rights.
They are seeking an immediate halt to the rule while it is litigated, something the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could decide on later this month.
All Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election want to overturn the rules.
In addition to the veto, Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them.
Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation, including five this year, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress.
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decreased in nearly every state from 2005 to 2013
November 23, 2015, Principal contributor: Perry Lindstrom
The United States has a diverse energy landscape that is reflected in differences in state-level emissions profiles. Since 2005, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell in 48 states (including the District of Columbia) and rose in 3 states. EIA’s latest analysis of state-level energy-related CO2 emissions includes data in both absolute and per capita terms, including details by fuel and by sector.
This analysis measures emissions released at the location where fossil fuels are consumed. Therefore, to the extent that fuels are used in one state to generate electricity that is consumed in another state, emissions are attributed to the former rather than the latter. An analysis attributing emissions to the consumption of electricity, rather than to the production of electricity, would yield different results.
The 10 states with the highest levels of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2013 accounted for half of the U.S. total. These 10 states also have large populations and account for slightly more than half (53%) of the nation’s total population. California was the second-highest emitter in absolute terms (353 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or MMmt CO2), behind only Texas (641 MMmt CO2). But California was also the fourth-lowest emitter on a per capita basis, behind the District of Columbia, New York, and Vermont. Relatively small states such as Wyoming and North Dakota had much higher levels of per capita emissions in 2013, nearly seven times and five times the national average, respectively.
Energy-related CO2 emissions come from coal, petroleum, and natural gas consumed within a state to produce electricity (38% of U.S. total), to transport goods or people (33%), to operate industrial processes (18%), or to directly fuel equipment in residential and commercial buildings (10%). The consumption levels by fuel and by sector vary considerably by state. For example, coal consumption accounted for 78% of energy-related CO2 emissions in West Virginia in 2013, while coal only accounted for 1% of emissions in California.
Consumption of petroleum accounted for more than 90% of energy-related CO2 emissions in two states, Hawaii and Vermont, but for different reasons. In both states, emissions from the transportation sector accounted for more than 50% of energy-related emissions. In Vermont, the nonelectric (or direct) residential share of total emissions was 23%, mostly from petroleum-based fuels such as heating oil used to fuel furnaces and water heaters. Vermont’s electric power sector share of emissions from petroleum was only 0.2%, as very little of the state’s electricity in 2013 was generated from petroleum or any other fossil fuels. Hawaii, on the other hand, has very little direct use of petroleum for residential heating but much higher use of petroleum for power generation.
Repost from The Guardian [Editor: An important discussion of “survival emissions” in developing nations vs. “lifestyle emissions” in industrial nations. – RS]
Paris climate talks: Developed countries must do more than reduce emissions
By Shyam Saran, 23 November 2015 05.35 EST – Saran is a former foreign secretary of India. He was India’s chief negotiator on climate change from 2007 to 2010
We are only days away from the climate change summit in Paris. Several world leaders are likely to be present to applaud a successful outcome, which is virtually guaranteed since the bar has been set so low in terms of effort expected from the major industrialized economies.
It is this pledge and review system which will become the template for future climate change action. Past experience shows that such weak international regimes, which posit only a best endeavour commitment, rarely deliver expected results.
The UN recently reported that aggregating all the INDCs so far, the world would be on an a trajectory of 2.7C, when a 2C rise is already the limit of safety defined by scientists.
What many people fail to realize is that global warming is the consequence of the stock of greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly CO2, which has accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of fossil fuel based industrial activity in the industrialized countries of the world.
This is the reason why the UN recognizes the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing global warming even though current industrial activity in major developing countries such as China and, to a much lesser extent, India is adding incrementally to that stock.
If developed countries do not make significant and absolute reductions in their emissions there will be a progressively smaller carbon space available to accommodate the development needs of developing countries. There is a difference between the emissions of developing countries which are “survival” emissions and those of developed countries which are in the nature of “lifestyle” emissions. They do not belong to the same category and cannot be treated on a par.
To blur this distinction is to accept the argument that because “we got here first, so we get to keep what we have, while those who come later must stay where they are for the sake of the saving the planet from the threat of climate change.” Far from accepting their historical responsibility developed countries are instead trying to shift the burden on to the shoulders of developing countries.
This they have been doing by keeping attention focused on current emissions while ignoring the source of the stock of emissions in the atmosphere. A sustainable and effective climate change regime cannot be built on the basis of such inequity.
One often hears the argument that it is all very well to preach equity but given the planetary emergency the world faces from the threat of climate change we must set aside the equity principle in the interests of humanity as a whole. This is a wholly specious and self serving argument. It reflects the sense of entitlement to an affluent lifestyle, based on energy intensive production and consumption, while denying the even modest aspirations of people in developing countries.
In a densely interconnected and globalised world, it will be impossible to maintain islands of prosperity in an ocean of poverty and deprivation. It is not that developing countries are claiming the right to spew as much carbon as possible into the atmosphere without regard to the health of the planet.
As the main victims of climate change– the impacts of which they are already suffering – they have a much bigger stake in dealing with this challenge. They are, in fact, doing much more than most developed countries, to adopt energy frugal methods of growth, conserving energy, promoting renewable power and limiting waste within the limits of their own resources.
They could do much more if they had access to finance, technology and capacity building from developed countries, a commitment which is incorporated in the UN. Success may elude Paris if developed countries continue to evade their responsibility to provide adequate financial resources and transfer appropriate technologies to developing countries to enable them to enhance their own domestic efforts.
Climate negotiations have become less about meeting an elemental challenge to human survival and more about safeguarding narrowly conceived economic self interests of nations. These are negotiations conducted in a competitive frame, where each party gives as little as possible and extracts as much as possible. The inevitable result is a least common denominator result and this is what is expected at Paris.
Imagine if each country came with the intention to contribute as much as it can and take away as little benefit to itself as possible, because we are all faced with an urgent and global challenge. We would then get a maximal outcome – which is what the world requires if it has to escape the catastrophic consequences of climate change. The negotiating dynamic may change dramatically.
The leaders can capture the imagination of people around the world if they explicitly acknowledge the seriousness of the threat we all confront and commit themselves to a global collaborative effort to deal with it based on the principle of equitable burden sharing.
Why not create a global technology platform which brings together the best minds from developed and developing countries alike to create new climate-friendly technologies which can then be disseminated as global public goods? Given the promise of solar power, why not announce a global solar mission designed to make it a mainstream energy source in a decade? Since coal will continue to be a major source of power generation in many countries of the world, could we collaborate together on a clean coal mission which reduces harmful emissions and increases the efficiency of coal combustion?
Countries can then contribute according to their capacities and resource availability and I have no doubt that emerging countries such as India, China or Brazil will be enthusiastic participants in such initiatives. Even if we are unable at this stage to go beyond the INDCs which have already been submitted the adoption of these initiatives may reassure the world that a new and more promising process has been set in motion to deliver a more sustainable future for our common home.