Less than 24 hours after the White House unveiled its pledge to cut carbon emissions, Congressional Republicans made it clear that if President Obama hopes to make any headway on climate action he will have to bypass them.
Under the climate plan, which was submitted on Tuesday to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), President Obama pledged to cut carbon emissions roughly 28 percent over the next decade. The commitment relies heavily on the success of several pending initiatives including halting construction of new coal-fired power plants, increasing vehicle fuel economy standards, and limiting methane leaks from oil and gas production.
A number of the proposal's key measures were previously established by presidential decree. As the New York Times notes, "the plan’s reliance on executive authority is an acknowledgment that any proposal to pass climate change legislation would be blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress."
While many hailed the White House for taking the lead on an international climate agreement, environmental groups slammed the proposal as insufficient, arguing that any such climate pledge will be negated by the Obama administration's continued support for fossil fuel development.
On the other side, Congressional Republicans denounced the plan for its reliance on environmental protection rules that have garnered opposition from Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday issued a statement warning other countries to "proceed with caution" before entering into any climate agreement with the United States.
"Even if the job-killing and likely illegal Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the United States could not meet the targets laid out in this proposed new plan," McConnell said. "Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal."
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And Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who heads the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, vowed that the climate pledge "will not see the light of day."
Last week, Inhofe and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (R) introduced an amendment (pdf) to the Senate's 2016 budget mandating "the advice and consent of the Senate" before the adoption of any "bilateral or international agreement regarding greenhouse gas emissions aimed at combating global climate change."
In a press conference Tuesday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest dismissed these efforts. "I think it's hard to take seriously from some members of Congress who deny the fact that climate change exists, that they should have some opportunity to render judgment about climate-change agreement," Earnest told reporters.
The Obama administration is already trying to preempt Republican efforts to sabotage an international agreement to be decided during the upcoming climate negotiations.
According to the Times, "Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomatic officials are working closely with their foreign counterparts to ensure that the Paris deal does not legally qualify as a treaty"—which would require Senate ratification.
"We can achieve this goal using laws that are already on the books," promised Brian Deese, Obama's senior adviser on climate change, "and it will be in place by the time the president leaves office."