It’s no surprise that leaders of the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency over the weekend joined the State Department in hailing the international climate change accord reached in Paris on Saturday.
What they shared in reacting to the five-year non-mandatory set of pledges to reduce temperature rises was a message to private companies involved in renewable energy and energy efficiency that new and greener market opportunities exist.
“We are sending literally a critical message to the global marketplace,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the close of the Paris event. “Many of us here know that it won’t be governments that actually make the decision or find the product, the new technology, the saving grace of this challenge. It will be the genius of the American spirit. It will be business unleashed because of 186 nations saying to global business in one loud voice: We need to move in this direction. And that will move investment. That will create new, greater research and development, and the next great product will come that will change our lives.”
The State Department offered reporters interviews with two unnamed senior administration officials. When asked about skeptics in Congress and conservative think tanks, one said, “I think that the tide of history is moving with us. The public opinion polls indicate this; the willingness of people around the country to act and the actions that people are taking in the – not only in national government but in local governments and state governments and in the private sector and in civil society, I think you’re seeing more and more action. And I think that this agreement is going to propel that forward.”
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement: “EPA will work tirelessly to share our expertise in defense of public health and the environment as we work together to implement this agreement. Today, we are unequivocally sending market signals that are spurring U.S. action, and unleashing businesses to think creatively and seize this opportunity to lead the world in developing a clean energy economy.”
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the agreement “shows that the world is ready to move towards an innovative era of reductions in heat-trapping emissions that will put us on a path to avoid the worst impacts of climate change” by putting in place “a framework to keep global warming below the most dangerous levels. Innovation-driven lower clean energy costs will underpin increased ambition on climate, while enabling life-changing energy services to the poor and enhanced global energy security,” Moniz said.
He added that the Mission Innovation initiative announced by President Obama and leaders from 19 other countries to double clean energy research and development over five years, along with the parallel private funding effort launched by billionaire Bill Gates “will be central parts of the follow-on to Paris.”
Moniz credited the administration for “huge strides in the deployment of clean energy and the reduction of [its] costs. Over the last six years, costs have fallen by 40 to 90 percent for technologies like wind energy, solar, batteries, and LED lighting. As costs have fallen, deployment has increased. Wind generation capacity has tripled, solar has increased 20-fold, and LEDs 200-fold over the same time period.”
Republicans in Congress were not impressed. “The climate proposal announced today represents nothing more than a long-term planning document,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “The president is making promises he can’t keep, writing checks he can’t cash, and stepping over the middle class to take credit for an ‘agreement’ that is subject to being shredded in 13 months. His commitments to help leaders abroad are based on proposals at home that would hurt jobs and raise utility rates for American families,” he said of the deal that does not require Senate ratification.
“Before his international partners pop the champagne, they should remember that this is an unattainable deal based on a domestic energy plan that is likely illegal, that half the states have sued to halt, and that Congress has already voted to reject,” McConnell said.