WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama said the new global climate agreement “offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have” and credited his administration as being a driving force behind the deal.
Obama, speaking on Saturday night from the White House, sought to celebrate what could be a legacy-defining achievement – if the Republican-controlled Congress or the courts don’t block him or his successors in the White House don’t reverse him.
“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” Obama said. “We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.”
The climate agreement was reached by nearly 200 nations and is designed to curb global warming. Obama said it will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens the planet and more economic growth driven by investments in clean energy.
Obama said the world leaders meeting in Paris “met the moment” and that people can be more confident “the planet will be in better shape for the next generation.”
The president took credit for the successful negotiations. “Today, the American people can be proud – because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change.”
Obama said the agreement is not perfect, but sets a framework that will contain periodic reviews and assessments to ensure that countries meet their commitments to curb carbon emissions. As technology advances, targets can be updated over time. The agreement also calls for supporting the most vulnerable nations as they pursue cleaner economic growth.
Top Republicans in Congress dismissed the pact as nothing more than a long-term planning document and said Obama was making promises he won’t be able to keep. They say his commitment to reduce emissions from US power plants would cost thousands of American jobs and raise electricity costs.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama is “writing checks he can’t cash and stepping over the middle class to take credit for an ‘agreement’ that is subject to being shredded in 13 months.”
And Republican Sen. James Inhofe said Americans can expect the administration to cite the agreement as an excuse for establishing emission targets for every sector of the U.S. economy.
Secretary of State John Kerry said from Paris: “I have news for Senator Inhofe. The United States of America has already reduced its emissions more than any other country in the world.
Several Democratic lawmakers applauded Obama’s efforts.
Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, said climate change poses one of the greatest threats the world has ever known and that no country acting alone can stem the tide.
“The time to act is now,” he said.