President Obama’s determination to reduce US power plant emissions by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030 sends a message to world leaders that the UN climate talks in Paris could – just – succeed.
Past talks have foundered on a range of political excuses, but now that the world’s two largest polluters, China and the US, have committed to far-reaching changes in their energy production to keep the world below the dangerous threshold of a 2C temperature increase, the door is open for all the rest to follow.
The stumbling block to US action so far has been the refusal of die-hard members of the Republican Party to accept that climate change is happening, and the well-funded fossil fuel lobby’s legal and political campaign to block any legislation.
But Barack Obama’s use of an existing law − the Clean Air Act of 1970 − has allowed him tobypass Republican opposition simply by issuing new regulations.
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On Monday, President Obama launched his Clean Power Plan designed to cut emissions from the power sector by 32% in 2030, against a 2005 baseline.
The US and China’s commitments to reduce carbon emissions give cause for optimism, but it is increasingly clear that national mitigation commitments will not together prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change. The 19th Annual Chatham House Climate Change Conference will assess what steps can be taken to complete a deal and, looking beyond Paris, consider what global mechanisms are required to ensure ambitious long term climate action.