(Vatican Radio) International reactions to US President Barack Obama’s unveiling of what he described as d “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken” in tackling climate change have been positive.
The aim of Obama’s revised Clean Power Plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from US power stations by nearly a third within 15 years.
Analysts believe the plan will also boost a major climate summit in Paris next December and encourage other countries to submit their own plans.
Joe Ware, Church and campaigns journalist at Christian Aid, told Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni his organization warmly welcomes the Plan:
Listen to the interview:
Joe Ware says that as an organization that works to tackle global poverty, Christian Aid welcomes President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
He points out that climate change has a huge impact on the world’s poor, so to see a developed nation – the world’s most developed nation - make this ambitious move is really exciting.
“Particularly because it is actually more ambitious than its previous commitment” he says.
Ware explains that in November last year the US struck a deal with China where both countries pledged certain levels of climate action. But, he says, this has seen the US go one step further and be more ambitious in terms of the amounts of carbon emissions it’s going to reduce by 2030 and the amount of electricity it will generate by renewable energy by the same date.
Ware agrees that the Plan will have a positive effect on the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change next November in Paris.
He says that in the past, during similar global meetings attempting to reach a global agreement on Climate Change, “one of the problems was that countries like the US were ‘blockers’ to progress, holding everyone back”.
Now, he explains, we now have a situation in which, “with a 180 degree turn, America is actually one of the countries leading the charge. And this is to the credit of Obama who has obviously made it a priority”.
Ware speaks about a completely new scenario in which hopefully countries will try to outdo each other in terms of proposals and commitments, and this – he says – is very encouraging.
Of course he says there is still a long way to go and negotiations will still be fraught, no doubt in December in Paris “but having the ‘big hitters like China and America, in the room being productive and encouraging others to go further is extremely encouraging.
However he points out that “any deal that is stuck in December will have to have a kind of a ratcheting mechanism to increase ambition over time, because any agreement we get this year will not be enough to solve climate change, but it has to get the ball rolling”.
Ware also points out that getting a deal in Paris will make it very difficult for a successor of Obama to unravel the Plan.
“There would be a huge amount of international condemnation” he says.
But, he says, there is also another factor: “the way Obama has crafted this legislation and the way that the Paris deal will be signed, it’s not a ‘top-down’ treaty that needs to get passed through every country’s parliament – or through the Congress in America – this is something that Obama can deliver simply on the influence he has, the Executive Order of the President” he says.
Ware explains that the problem of the Kyoto Agreement a few years ago needed the ratification from the Senate in America - and it didn’t get it. But this agreement is built from the ground up so each country announces what it will contribute to the global effort, and each country will have to guarantee that it can deliver on that.
“So Obama is only offering what he can deliver without having to go through the Republican controlled Congress. So in terms of how the deal is structured, not only will that help him at home, but once a deal is signed in Paris there will also be that international binding nature of the commitment which will make it very difficult in future for it to be undone ” he says.
Ware concludes with a consideration on how Pope Francis seems to have set the tone for this year with his encyclical “Laudato si’”.
“2015 has become the year for the climate” – and it will be very interesting – he says - to hear what Pope Francis will have to say when he addresses the US Congress in September.
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