The New York Times reports today that Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to make climate change a focal point of his time in office and wants to pursue a global climate change treaty in 2015.
Kerry has set an ambitious agenda for himself, already in the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, crafting a nuclear agreement with Iran and brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Now you can add reducing greenhouse gas emissions to that list.
The former Massachusetts senator has long had an interest in crafting a domestic climate change bill. In 2009, he proposed ambitious legislation with Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, but it subsequently failed. Climate change has fallen off Congress’s agenda in recent years with policymakers instead focused on the economy and health care reform.
Kerry’s desire to sign a global climate change treaty is yet another sign that the Obama administration wants to make significant progress on climate change in its second term. Already, the Environmental Protection Agency has put forward rules on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, effectively stopping new construction. The agency is expected to propose new rules that could force current plans to close as well.
Obama also brought in John Podesta, the former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, to focus on executive actions that the president can take with regards to climate change. One major decision that Obama has, and Podesta has recused himself from, will be over the Keystone XL pipeline. Environmentalists have long hoped that the president would reject Keystone.
Despite the Obama administration’s willingness to take unilateral actions with regard to climate change, Kerry’s global treaty faces long odds. Previous attempts to broker agreements have failed – including a summit in Copenhagen in 2009 that Kerry was involved in – and even if a deal was reached, it would then still have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate.
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