05 January, 2011

The Global Reach of EPA Rulings on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Sergio Abranches (for The Great Energy Challenge)

When president Barack Obama arrived in Copenhagen for the Summit of chiefs of government, Congress was still discussing a comprehensive climate and energy bill. Expectations were set too high for COP15. Most delegates and environmentalists hoped that Obama would lead the way towards a global climate agreement. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson explained on a side event her agency would soon start regulating carbon emissions.

The Copenhagen Accord fell short of expectations, but Obama’s last minute deal with the leaders of the emerging powers was pivotal to its approval. The Cancun Agreements would not be possible without the groundwork done in Copenhagen. One of its major achievements was to make core elements of the Copenhagen Accord official. The most important were mitigation pledges and provisions for transparency.

On the eve of COP16, there was generalized concern that parties from the developing world could refuse to close a deal because the U.S. failed to approve a legal framework to enforce federal climate policy. U.S. top climate negotiator Todd Stern stated repeatedly that a climate law was Obama’s final goal, but there were other means to enforce domestic mitigation actions. EPA’s forthcoming rules on carbon emissions were mentioned as part of a broader climate change policy.

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