Inhofe Responds to Obama Climate Speech
September 22, 2009

Contact:

Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202)224-9797

David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov (202)224-5642

 Inhofe Responds to Obama Climate Speech

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today delivered a floor speech critiquing President Obama's climate change speech at the United Nations in New York.

"Remember that the Senate resoundingly rejected exempting developing nations such as China from a binding international climate treaty.  We did this in the Byrd-Hagel resolution in 1997," Senator Inhofe said on the Senate Floor today. "In the final analysis, President Obama’s speech today was a failure: a failure to define success, a failure to provide real solutions for international energy security, and a failure to sketch the outlines of a meaningful international climate change agreement that will pass the Byrd-Hagel test."

Below is Senator Inhofe’s Full Speech As Prepared for Delivery:

Obama Climate Speech

Sen. James Inhofe, September 22, 2009 

As cap-and-trade continues to languish in the United States Senate, President Obama is trying to salvage international climate change talks on the brink of collapse.  So he gave a climate change speech at the United Nations, hoping to inspire hope in a process marred by failure.  His speech, however, fell short of expectations, offering only talk of rising sea levels and climate refugees, with no constructive solutions for the challenges ahead.

 

President Obama’s speech was delivered against a backdrop of confusion and disagreement in the international community over climate change.  The European Union is angry that the U.S. Senate is stalling cap-and-trade; China and India refuse to accept binding emissions cuts; the New York Times admits that global temperatures “have been stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years”; and addressing the global economic recession has taken precedence over climate change in countries throughout the world.

 

This is déjà vu all over again: these are some of the same issues that have stymied climate talks ever since Kyoto.  Of course we were told that all rancor and disagreement would evaporate once a new Administration assumed power in the United States.  After all, the failure to achieve an international climate pact was simply President Bush’s fault.  President Obama would bring change and the ability to persuade the likes of China and India to transcend their national self-interest for the global good.  Well, it hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen.

 

I was surprised that President Obama failed to define what success will mean in Copenhagen.  So I will have to do it for him.  From the standpoint of the United States Senate, success will not mean a vague, open-ended commitment on emissions from India or China, the world’s leading emitter.  Success can only mean that China and other developing countries agree to mandatory emissions cuts comparable to those required of America—and that any treaty or agreement avoid causing harm to our economy.  Unless those conditions are met, no such treaty or agreement can be approved by the Senate.

 

Remember that the Senate resoundingly rejected exempting developing nations such as China from a binding international climate treaty.  We did this in the Byrd-Hagel resolution in 1997.  Byrd-Hagel stated that, among other things, the U.S. should not sign any international climate change treaty that would: 1) mandate greenhouse gas reductions from the U.S. without also requiring new, specific commitments from developing countries over the same compliance period; and 2) result in serious economic harm to the United States.  

I think Byrd-Hagel still commands strong support in the U.S. Senate.  So any treaty the Obama Administration submits must meet the resolution's criteria, or it will be easily defeated. 

 

We hear that China is making progress in reducing emissions, and that the Administration will persuade China to agree to more aggressive steps in Copenhagen.  But the Administration’s climate change envoy, Todd Stern, is saying something different.  On September 2, he said it’s not possible to ask China for an “absolute reduction below where they are right now,” because, as he said, “they're not quite at that point to be able to do that. And in that respect, developed and developing countries are different.”

 

Let me translate a bit: Stern is saying China simply can’t make reductions that would be comparable to anything the U.S. accepts domestically.  This is not a surprise, considering that China is now the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, while U.S. emissions have remained relatively stagnant. Make no mistake here: China is unapologetic for its refusal to accept binding emissions cuts, and it will pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy, including burning coal as it deems necessary.

 

China has also stated that before it accepts absolute, binding emissions reductions, developed countries must reduce their emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020.  Let me say that again: China won’t accept absolute reductions until developed countries, including the United States, reduce their emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.  This is astounding.  Consider that the disastrous Waxman Markey calls for a 14 percent reduction.  Accepting the Chinese position would mean certain economic disaster for the United States, with jobs and businesses—not to mention emissions—going to China. 

 

Over the coming days and weeks, we will also hear much about China’s “National Mitigation Plan,” and its “5 year plan” to reduce emissions.  We will hear stern warnings that China is outpacing the United States on clean energy.  But this is a smokescreen to hide the chaos and failure of international climate change negotiations.  Yes, in the coming weeks, President Obama will try to reach some sort of “bilateral agreement” with China on climate change.  But it won’t require China to do anything other than its business-as-usual course. 

 

In the final analysis, President Obama’s speech today was a failure: a failure to define success, a failure to provide real solutions for international energy security, and a failure to sketch the outlines of a meaningful international climate change agreement that will pass the Byrd-Hagel test.

 

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