On the heels of the Paris climate deal, the United States President Barack Obama is likely to focus on the environment in his final year in office, and a recalcitrant Congress can do little to stop him.
President Obama will defend the Paris climate change agreement and forge ahead on his environmental agenda until his final days in the White House, according to analysts.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports those same analysts point out there is very little Mr Obama’s opponents in Congress can do to stop him, unless they win the elections and install a Republican in the White House in 2017.
Republicans’ initial attempts to derail the Paris agreement fell flat, with Congress failing to deliver on threats to cut off climate aid to developing countries or block the deal.
However, the Guardian reports President Obama still has a fight on his hands, from lawsuits and new resolutions intended to undermine the Paris agreement, during an election year that could give an unusual degree of attention to climate change.
After an epic year in 2015, with the Paris climate agreement in December and the final release of rules cutting carbon emissions from power plants in August, President Obama is expected to keep pushing his climate agenda in 2016, racing to roll out new regulations on the oil and gas industry before leaving office.
“My sense is that when it comes to the climate issue, broadly, the president will look for every opportunity to advance his agenda,” said David Sandalow, a fellow at the Centre on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, and a former Obama Administration official.
“He has been relentless on this issue and with results.”
Before the Paris summit, Republicans in Congress vowed repeatedly to overturn President Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants, moving two resolutions to strike down the rules.
As 150 leaders converged on Paris for the start of the global warming negotiations, congressional Republicans threatened repeatedly to undo the agreement in Congress, and to block climate aid President Obama had pledged to developing countries.
The US earlier this year committed US$3 billion to help developing countries cut carbon emissions and move to cleaner fuels.
The Guardian reports Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz even told the Senate science committee there was no evidence climate change was occurring.
The president used his veto to block the resolutions against his clean power plant rules, and the budget deal passed by Congress included a first tranche of US$500m President Obama had promised for the Green Climate Fund.
The budget deal also extended tax credits for the solar and wind industries, which were seen as a significant boost for the renewable energy sector.
“Any country can withdraw from an international agreement,” Mr Sandalow said.
“That would hurt the US image and interests around the world. We saw 150 heads of state go to Paris and not a single one of them contested the science on climate change,” he went on.
“The global consensus on the need to address this issue is very strong.”
In 2016, one key preoccupation for the White House will be defending the Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting power plant carbon emissions from lawsuits brought by 27 states, industries and other groups.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress say they will seek to block the US from committing to a climate fund for developing countries in 2017, a key underpinning of the Paris agreement.
Administration officials said President Obama would look to use his executive powers as president once again to cut US climate pollution in line with US commitments under the Paris agreement.
The agreement for the first time commits all countries to curb climate pollution, with a goal of limiting temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius and achieving net-zero emissions by the second half of the century.
Under the deal, Obama promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.
But the US needs to undertake further cuts if it is to have any chance of meeting that target.
“Do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going stop Paris in its tracks?” he asked.
“There will probably be a lot of noise like that. Do I actually think that two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress, are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will,” President Obama concluded.