When Secretary of State John Kerry is not working on nuclear deals with Iran, ending civil war in Syria or creating a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, he’s spending his free time on solving the climate crisis.
The New York Times reports Kerry is eyeing a global climate treaty, next year no less. And he’s already laid some groundwork:
His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.
As a result of midlevel talks Mr. Kerry set up to pave the way for a 2015 deal, the United States and China agreed in September to jointly phase down production of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioners.
For decades, the world has been skeptical of American efforts to push a climate change treaty, given the lack of action in Congress. But Mr. Obama has given Mr. Kerry’s efforts some help. In September, the Environmental Protection Agency began issuing regulations forcing cuts in carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
The rules, which can be enacted without Congress, have effectively frozen construction of new coal-fired plants and could eventually shutter existing ones. Republicans criticize the rules as a “war on coal,” but abroad they are viewed as a sign that the United States is now serious about acting on global warming.
Kerry is to be saluted for prioritizing the protection of humanity over short-term politics.
But don’t kid yourself about the short-term politics.
The Hill also reports today on how climate is shaping up to be a major flashpoint in the 2014 midterm elections:
Energy and environmental issues are expected to take a front seat in dozens of races across the country, from coal country in West Virginia and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) faces a tough reelection race just as she prepares to take up the chairmanship of the Senate Energy Committee.
In Alaska, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) faces a difficult reelection battle in a major energy state. On Thursday, he distanced himself from Obama’s climate agenda, pushing for more oil exploration.
Open-seat Senate races in South Dakota and Montana are also places where energy will be a major theme as the natural-gas boom becomes a prominent debate in 2014.
In short, we have a lot of hot races where fossil fuel interests hold great sway. We are not playing on green turf, let alone blue.
As I wrote last September, in “Climate Politics Will Be Brutal in 2014,” Australia already gave America a wake-up call about the potential for climate backlash. The Labor Party’s carbon tax led to its demise, and the new right-wing government for its first order of business, scrapped the tax.
Obmama’s EPA has already been roiling the 2014 waters with new rules effectively banning new coal plants that don’t capture carbon emissions. The fact that the Obama administration is bending over backwards to help coal transition to the new rules is lost in the noise.
Fortunately, as The Hill notes, environmentalists are prepared to spend in 2014 and are also mobilizing grassroots networks that have helped win swing state elections before. Furthermore, the Democratic Party’s grassroots operation Organizing for America has been prioritizing climate for months. Greens will not enter the 2014 battle unarmed.
But make no mistake: be prepared for some losses.
And then, push on anyway. Some things are worth the price.
P.S. All of the above is way more important than Keystone.