House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans are signaling a lack of support for the climate talks. (photo: Tom Williams/AP)
Elizabeth Kolbert | The New Yorker | Reader Supported News | December 5, 2015
on’t trust the United States: as the international climate summit in Paris grinds along, this is the message Republicans in Congress are trying to send the delegates. The logic, such as it is, of the claim is that merely by making it the House G.O.P. goes a long way toward proving its validity.
On Tuesday, at a news conference in Paris, President Barack Obama exhorted negotiators to keep in mind what is at stake at the summit. “This one trend—climate change—affects all trends,” Obama said. “This is an economic and security imperative that we have to tackle now.”
Even as he spoke, congressional Republicans were doing their best to undermine him. That same day, the House approved two resolutions aimed at blocking regulations to curb U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. The first would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing rules aimed at cutting emissions from new power plants; the second would prevent the agency from enforcing rules targeted at existing power plants. Together, these rules are known as the Clean Power Plan, and they are crucial to the Americans’ negotiating position in Paris. (The Clean Power Plan is central to the United States’ pledge, made in advance of the summit, to cut its emissions by twenty-six per cent.) The House votes, which followed Senate approval of similar resolutions back in November, were, at least according to some members, explicitly aimed at subverting the talks. Lawmakers want to “send a message to the climate conference in Paris that in America, there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president,” Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, explained.