The Republican poised to take over the Senate’s top environment job attacked the carbon emissions deal struck between US and China on Wednesday as a “non-binding charade” and said he will use his new powers to fight against regulation of the energy sector.
Jim Inhofe, who is set to become chairman of the Senate environment and public works committee, warned that China could not be trusted to see through its side of the deal and said he would do everything in his own power to undermine a White House plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants.
The incoming Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, struck a similar tone, describing the agreement as an example of Barack Obama’s “ideological war on coal”.
“This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” McConnell said. “It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape.”
John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, said the “job-crushing” deal was “the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy”.
The US-China pledge, negotiated behind the scenes and unveiled between Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing earlier on Wednesday, has committed China to capping emissions for the first time and the US committing to deep reductions by 2025.
It has been welcomed by climate change campaigners across the world as an important step ahead of efforts to reach a global deal on reducing emissions beyond 2020 at a United Nations meeting in Paris next year.
The deal challenges Republicans in Washington because it undercuts one of their principal arguments against restriction on greenhouse gas emissions: that unilateral action by the US handicaps economic competition China, which is a the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and refuses to play by the same rules.
China, which previously had only ever pledged to reduce the rapid rate of growth in its emission, has now agreed to cap its output by 2030. It has also promised to increase its use of energy from zero-emission sources to 20% by 2030.
The US has pledged to cut its emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The European Union had already endorsed a binding 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030 .
Inhofe said the deal was lopsided in China’s favour and indicated the country’s leader could not be trusted to see through its pledge.
“In the president’s climate change deal, the United States will be required to more steeply reduce our carbon emissions while China won’t have to reduce anything,” he said. “It’s hollow and not believable for China to claim it will shift 20% of its energy to non-fossil fuels by 2030, and a promise to peak its carbon emissions only allows the world’s largest economy to buy time.”
Inhofe and McConnell both said that last week’s midterm elections, in which Republicans swept to victories across the country and regained control of the Senate, indicated voters had rejected Obama’s historic decision in June to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The new rules, to be implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), represented the first time that any US president has moved to regulate carbon pollution from power plants – the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change – and laid the ground for this week’s deal with China.
“The American people spoke against the president’s climate policies in this last election,” Inhofe said. “They want affordable energy and more economic opportunity, both which are being diminished by overbearing EPA mandates.”
In a reference to his widely-expected chairmanship - which climate scientists fear Inhofe will use to promote his discredited belief that global warming is is a “hoax” - the senator added: “As we enter a new Congress, I will do everything in my power to rein in and shed light on the EPA’s unchecked regulations.”
Describing the US-China agreement as “job-destroying red tape”, McConnell said: “Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.”
Boehner added: “Republicans have consistently passed legislation to rein in the EPA and stop these harmful policies from taking effect, and we will continue to make this a priority in the new Congress.”
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