Obama Watch

by William Yeatman on November 25, 2008

This week President-elect Barack Obama promised to “lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change" at an international climate change summit in California. In a previously-recorded video message to the 800 attendees, Obama repeated his campaign pledge to push for a cap-and-trade scheme that would reduce U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama also promoted his plan to spend $15 billion annually for ten years to create 5 million green jobs.

Obama faces an uphill battle to meet these promises. The economic crisis will be a major impediment to Obama’s vision of an era of global cooperation on climate change. Countries are increasingly reluctant to commit to economically harmful climate mitigation policies during what appears to be a global recession (see “Around the World, below).

The economic downturn also will impede Obama’s cap-and-trade plans. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) this week announced that she will introduce a cap and trade bill in January (see Inside the Beltway, above), but the Senate rejected the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill last summer because of its adverse economic impact, and the economy is much worse now. Just last week, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told reporters that the financial crisis has forced the Congress to relegate cap and trade legislation to the backburner. He said that he didn’t expect the Congress to address cap and trade until 2010.

Obama’s plan to spend billions in taxpayer money to create green jobs is much more plausible in the short term. Members of Congress are likely to embrace an opportunity to spread around $15 billion among constituents.

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