Obama speech to Parliament skirts climate change

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President Obama’s speech Wednesday to England’s Parliament was heavy on defense, foreign policy, trade and the common values that link Britain with her former colonies, but made scant mention of the global challenges presented by climate change.

‘No country can hide from the dangers of carbon pollution, which is why we must build on what was achieved in Copenhagen and Cancun, to leave our children a planet that is safer and cleaner,’ Obama said in one of only two references to climate change brought on by human activity.

In a reference to the ongoing struggle to emerge from economic recession, Obama added, ‘The successes and failures of our own past can serve as an example for emerging economies: that it’s possible to grow without polluting, that lasting prosperity comes not from what a nation consumes, but from what it produces and from the investments it makes in its people and its infrastructure.’

The latter comment appears to be directed in part at China and India, whose spectacular economic growth threatens to multiply emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. The negotiations to renew a global climate pact, held in Copenhagen in 2009 and last year in Cancun, have been thwarted by tensions among developed and developing economies.


But there is palpable tension between the European Union and the United States, which has lagged in its efforts to curb its high per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases. The European Union already has a market to trade carbon offsets aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, while the U.S. failed to get a ‘cap and trade’ measure through Congress last year. The issue is all but dead until after the 2012 presidential elections.

Environmentalists have been disappointed in the Obama administration, which appears to be in retreat in the face of a concerted campaign against government regulation from the GOP, its ‘tea party’ faction and lobbyists from the petroleum industry. The administration in the last few months has delayed several key measures aimed at curbing air pollution, including a rule that would have cracked down on emissions from boilers at industrial plants.

Regulations affecting the coal industry, including those governing stored coal ash, and mountaintop-removal mining, likewise have been stalled.


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-- Geoff Mohan