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Obama seeks to lead global action to reach reduction targets, but faces domestic opposition

Reporter: Jessica Stone 丨 CCTV.com

11-30-2015 10:17 BJT

Full coverage: Xi Attends Paris Climate Talks, Visits Zimbabwe, S. Africa

The United States is the world's largest economy, and also one of the world's top emitters of greenhouse gases. Countries around the world are watching to see if and how the US reaches its reduction targets. But as President Obama hopes to lead the world by example on climate change, he seems to face more resistance at home.

Everyone at the Paris climate talks wants to walk away with some type of legally binding agreement to reduce climate change.

The problem right now is -- current commitments, by most accounts, won't be enough meet the target of holding an increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius.

The United Nations estimates the shortfall is 12 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, just over a fifth of total world emissions.

So American negotiators as well as other negotiators at the talks will have to try and close that gap.

One possible way is to put the globe on a path to meeting that goal and revisit the targets every five years to make them more ambitious.

The United States supports that idea, especially if a new US president is less climate-friendly than President Barack Obama. But it's unclear whether China and other nations would agree.

The United States has more public support for combating climate change than it used to, but if the agreement results in legally binding targets that require congressional support, the American president will have an uphill battle.

In November, the US Senate took two largely ceremonial votes to undermine the US Clean Power Plan - which is the main way the US intends to reduce carbon emissions from electricity production. They're also threatening to block American financial contributions to poorer nations for climate change mitigation.

The Republican opposition leader of the U.S. Senate said last month, quote, "The Obama administration is putting facts and compassion to the side in order to advance their ideological agenda."

If the Paris deal includes binding emissions targets or binding financial commitments -- President Obama will have to submit the agreement for a vote -- and that means it might not get passed.

Legal analysts say if the US commitments can be implemented on the basis of existing climate commitments and law, the president can sign on without congressional approval so that would be the most likely scenario for a deal.

As we saw with the Iran nuclear deal -- there is precedent for the US president to reach international deals, but when they need congressional approval, no commitments can be guaranteed.

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