With Keystone snub, Obama aims for more leverage on climate
WASHINGTON - The Associatd Press
REUTERS photoFor years, President Barack Obama chided Republicans and Democrats alike for treating the Keystone XL pipeline as a signal of whether the U.S. would seriously fight global warming. Now that he’s killed the project, Obama is holding it up as Exhibit A as he works to lock in his environmental legacy with a powerful international climate accord.
Rejecting Keystone, the proposed 1,897-kilometer crude oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S., was the latest in a long and growing list of steps Obama has taken to try to show the U.S. is leading the effort against global warming. Even while Republicans have fought Obama tooth-and-nail at home, he’s sought to use those steps to pressure other countries into taking similar action - especially poorer, developing countries that for years have argued that climate change is not their problem.
At the center of Obama’s efforts are landmark carbon dioxide emissions limits on U.S. power plants that have been cheered by environmentalists but derided by most energy advocates. Although the rules are proceeding for the time being, they face an uncertain future. Half of the states in the U.S. are suing to try to block them.
“There has been a steady drumbeat of steps the president has taken that are more impactful for climate change, factually, than Keystone,” said White House communications director Jen Psaki. “Our view is that we need to continue to lead by example. Is that difficult? Yes, of course it is.”
If the power plant rules falter, Obama would be hard-pressed to secure the 26 percent to 28 percent cut in U.S. emissions that he’s pledged as America’s commitment to the climate treaty. If the U.S. comes up short, analysts predict, other countries like China will start backing out.
Obama is counting on the climate treaty, to be finalized early next month in Paris, to vault him into a category of his own: the first president to treat climate change like a top-tier issue, and the first to secure the type of commitments from other countries need to address the problem significantly.
In rejecting TransCanada’s application for Keystone, Obama set aside the litmus test he established in 2013 when he unveiled his second-term climate change agenda with plenty of pomp. Wiping sweat from his brow under the summer sun at Georgetown University, Obama said he’d block the pipeline if it would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”