Lambert here: Totally violating Betteridge’s law of headlines, I’m going to answer “Yes,” but as usual, Obama’s hands are never empty by chance.
Anyhow, I’m way behind the curve on COP21 — the 2015 Paris Climate Conference — and I hope readers with real expertise on the conference will weigh in, in comments. In this video, The Real News Network’s Jessica Desvarieux interviews Christian Parenti, a professor at NYU’s Global Liberal Studies program. His most recent book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. Parenti gives this useful review of the bidding.
These passages caught my eye:
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
With the UN climate change conference in Paris beginning on November 30, many Republicans and some Democratic politicians are intensifying their efforts to block national and international climate change legislation. On Tuesday the U.S. Senate voted to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in a 52-46 vote, challenging the Obama administration’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal power plants. The Senate also passed a resolution against further regulation on new coal-fired power plants as well. So a lot to discuss, but President Obama says he’ll veto both resolutions. So we want to put this all into context. …
PARENTI: This resolution represents the importance of the EPA, as far as I see it. And one of the main problems of the EPA is also the Democratic party and Barack Obama. The history behind this resolution is this: that the U.S. signs the Kyoto Protocol in the late ’90s, which is the first agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. So the Clinton administration signs that, but they can’t get it ratified by the Senate. So then there’s a lawsuit by states that says the EPA has to regulate greenhouse gas emissions because they qualify as pollution under the Clean Air Act. In 2007 the Supreme Court said that’s true, the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve been waiting since then for meaningful action on this front, and the Obama administration has been really bad in that regard.
So this Clean Power Plan [to cut carbon emissions from the EPA] that is now underway, that the Senate is rejecting symbolically because they’ll be overridden by the president, should have been one of the first things on the Obama agenda. And instead he pursued this attempt to create cap and trade legislation, comprehensive climate legislation, one version of which would have stripped the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. That failed, and he dragged his feet throughout the rest of his two terms. And so now we’re, you know, at last ditch effort, we’re getting the Clean Power Plan, which is a step in the right direction but ultimately inadequate.
So what it says internationally is that the U.S. isn’t going to go along with this. It’s trying to, you know, throw cold water on the Paris talks. But it also says something that progressives and environmentalists should look at. The right wing in this country has been obsessed with the EPA. Why? Because the EPA has the power necessary to impose a de facto carbon tax on the economy. If the EPA issues the 20 or more tailoring rules that we’re waiting for, pursuant to Mass v. EPA, which is what this Clean Power Plan is about, it’s the first step in that direction or one of the first steps. We would effectively raise the cost of dirty energy like gas and coal-fired electricity, and relatively lower the expense of clean energy, and investment would flow into that.
So a lot of environmental organizations are uncomfortable dealing with the government, and they prefer kind of essentially private solutions. And I’ve been critical of this on numerous fronts, even as I’m very supportive of the environmental movement. But–so we’ve pursued divestment, we’ve pursued corporate campaigns, and overlooked the role of government and its ability to control industry and shape industry. And that, to me, just reflects the ways in which neoliberal kind of anti-government ideology has infected even certain precincts of progressive and left politics in the United States.