Author: Sébastien Burgess, born in Paris in 1989. Graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resources Studies. Lives in Mexico City where he works as a cartographer on local environmental projects and sports commentator. Has been involved in environmental activism since his college years and is a proud member of CliMates since its creation in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @BurgessSeb
Barack Obama’s speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, June 25th marked an anticipated political event and set important guidelines for climate change legislation for the United States moving forward. Barack Obama has been dealt a very difficult hand since becoming President of the United States in January 2009th. An economic crisis of unprecedented proportion and a science-denying, climato-septic Republican-led Congress has made his political margin of maneuver to deal with climate change policy extremely limited.
In 2009, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 which would have established an ambitious cap and trade system for the United States passed the House of Representatives but died on the Senate floor. Everything went downhill from there, the 2010 Republican Legislative victory temporarily sealed the fate of significant greenhouse reductions legislation to be passed in Congress. In fact, in 2011,the House of Representatives was deemed to be the « most anti-environmental house in the History of Congress » as House Republicans voted a record 191 times to weaken environmental regulations including 27 votes to block action on climate change legislation and this in a year which saw record drought, flooding and wildfires. The only way Obama could possibly influence climate policy was through direct executive action during that span such as setting limit on car exhaust for US car manufacturers to produce cars that average of 35.5mpg by 2016 for example. Good-willed but woefully inadequate political initiatives for a country that contributes to close to 20% of worldwide Co2 emissions annually and whose citizens emit around 17.2 tons of Co2 per capita per year.
Fast forwarding to June 25th speech now, which despite its clear benevolence, perspired of political opportunism, as Obama had carefully avoided the slippery slopes of climate change talks for the past two year yeas, a politically dangerous topic in the United States that Obama was electorally « wise » enough to avoid during his election year. Now comfortably settled into a second term with nothing to lose moving forward and after 4 years of climate inaction, the 44rth U.S. president could courageously roll up his sleeves and attack the most serious topic our generation and our children will face this coming century.
Obama’s speech in some ways was a milestone and establishes coherent guidelines in terms of reducing greenhouse gases and launching a war on coal, the urgency of elaborating climate adaptation plans in the United States and the importance of re-imitating climate talks at the UN level. It is a necessary document which hopefully will launch the country into a new dynamic of increased renewable energy use, cleaner consumption and increased awareness about the impending climate threat. However, upon further study, it falls well short of the mark and of launching a necessary global impulsion, a push that the United States could and should embrace to lead the way into a cleaner and more sustainable 21st century. Lire la suite