President Barack Obama is determined to meet US commitments to cut down on carbon emissions despite an election rout at home, his energy secretary told climate negotiations on Monday.
Obama pledged at last year’s Copenhagen conference that the United States will reduce the emissions blamed for global warming by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. But a bill to require carbon cuts died in the Senate.
“President Obama has said the United States will meet our Copenhagen commitments,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on a lightning visit to the latest round of global climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.
“He absolutely feels that moving toward a clean energy economy is really about our energy security and about our financial security. It’s about our economy; it’s about the future of the planet,” Chu said.
The rival Republican Party, which says that forced emission cuts would hurt a fragile economy, won a sweeping victory in congressional elections last month. Some Republicans also doubt the science behind climate change.
Armed with a PowerPoint presentation, Chu pointed to the broad trend of rising temperatures since the industrial revolution and especially in recent years, while water levels are also up.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to make a 100-year prediction,” said Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. “It’s like if you eat the same amount and exercise less, you don’t need to be a dietician.”
Chu highlighted efforts by the Obama administration to encourage low-carbon technology, including 90 billion dollars toward clean energy in its economic stimulus package. The administration has set up research laboratories for green research and offered tax incentives to pursue eco-friendly energy.
The administration has also empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon, although such a step would undoubtedly trigger a backlash among Republicans in Congress.
The United States was the only major industrial country to reject the Kyoto Protocol but has pledged to play a role in the next framework, which is being discussed in Cancun.
The US emission reduction goals by 2020 remain much less ambitious than those of the European Union and Japan, which use 1990 instead of 2005 as the baseline for measuring cuts.