The United Nations will hold President Obama to his promise that the United States will reduce carbon emissions even if the Senate cannot pass climate legislation, U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said this morning.
In his first public comments since the Copenhagen climate summit last month that produced a nonbinding promise from major-emitting countries to cut greenhouse gases, de Boer noted that Obama vowed the United States will slash carbon about 17 percent below 2005 levels in the coming decade.
Yesterday's special election in Massachusetts, in which a Republican won the Senate seat formerly held by the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy since 1962, calls into question Congress' ability to pass a cap-and-trade bill, but it does not alter the U.S. commitment, de Boer said. He also noted that the administration has options other than legislation, like taking regulatory action through U.S. EPA.
"Whatever route is taken, the president of the United States committed to a 17 percent emissions reduction in Copenhagen," de Boer said. "The president of the United States committed to more ambitious emissions reductions for 2030 and 2050. And it is those statements to which the international community will hold the government of the United States accountable."
Describing a decade-long evolution in U.S. political commitment to climate change, de Boer, an Austrian-born Dutchman, insisted that Americans are concerned about global warming, worried about energy security and eager to create "green" jobs.
"I don't think that any political development in the United States means turning back nine years of political development on the climate change agenda," de Boer said. "The change of one state from one party to another is not going to cause a landslide in the politics of the United States on the question of climate change."