White House tamps down expectations for climate legislation

Source: John McArdle, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Basking in praise from environmentalists because President Obama shined a spotlight on climate change in his inaugural address, the White House today sought to avoid raising expectations about specific new legislation aimed at curbing global warming.

“I’m not going to speculate for you about future actions,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said when asked about how Obama intends to follow up on climate change comments.

Carney instead pointed reporters back to Obama’s climate accomplishments in his first term through actions like tightening emission standards on cars and trucks.

“He has a record already of historic accomplishments in this area, but more needs to be done. And he looks forward to building on the progress that was achieved,” Carney said.

Asked if Obama still supported a cap-and-trade proposal for curbing greenhouse gases, such as one that failed to move through Congress in 2010, Carney said Obama did, but he also said the White House understands the political reality of trying to move such a bill today.

“I think the president has long supported congressional action on climate change. And while it’s clear that bipartisan opposition to legislative action is still a reality, the [president's] position remains the same as it was in the first term,” he said.

Carney said one of the president’s goals in bringing up climate change yesterday was to push back against those who deny that the planet is warming.

“The president made clear that climate change is real,” Carney said. “That is certainly a conviction held by most Americans, and certainly the — backed up by the vast majority of the science.”

Carney also said Obama wanted to highlight how investing in new technologies and energy sectors that help fight climate change can create jobs and make America more secure.

“This is not only an issue of helping our climate and the environment, but it’s one of our national security,” Carney said. “So when we pursue energy independence, when we continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing domestic production of fossil fuel energy but other forms of energy, we enhance our security and protect America’s future in that way. And we also contribute to the effort to deal with climate change and all the impacts of climate change.”