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Obama to build on first term climate change efforts

US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Washington National Cathedral on January 22, 2013
US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to attend a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral on January 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama still wants to tackle climate change in a way that does not hurt the US economy or

President Barack Obama still wants to tackle climate change in a way that does not hurt the US economy or jobs, and has yet to frame an immediate plan for action, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Obama caused a stir on Monday when he promised in his inaugural address to "respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

The White House said Tuesday that Obama still backed congressional action to curb global warming but noted opposition among lawmakers to doing so.

More details on Obama's plans may come in his State of the Union address on February 12.

"The president's position remains the same as it was in the first term. He looks forward to building on the achievements made in the first term," said Obama's spokesman Jay Carney.

Obama introduced historic new standards for cars and light trucks which will significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicles by 2025 and also acted through executive orders to curb pollution from power plants.

But critics complain that he did not take a more pro-active leadership role in efforts to frame a cap and trade bill to cut carbon emissions which fell to pieces in the US Senate during his first term.

Pointing to opportunities in alternative energy industries, Carney signaled that Obama would pursue climate change "in a way that helps our economy grow and helps it create jobs. Otherwise, it's not worth the effort, in his mind."

"He will move forward in implementing some of the actions that he took in the first term and building on the progress that was made in the first term."

Sheldy Sasongko and members of Young Evangelists for Climate Action demonstrate on October 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado
Sheldy Sasongko and members of Young Evangelists for Climate Action demonstrate at the University of Denver on October 3, 2012 in Colorado.

With memories fresh of super-storm Sandy and record-breaking temperatures, Obama has indicated that climate change would be one of his second term priorities along with reforming immigration and tightening gun rules.

He said in his first press conference after winning re-election in November that he would consult scientists, engineers and lawmakers to try to find bipartisan ways to address climate change in the short term.

Any congressional plan to lower carbon emissions could also prove unpopular among Democrats facing tight races in conservative states in mid-term elections in 2014.

But climate legislation faces opposition from many Republicans who contest scientists' view that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are causing climate change and argue that curbing industrial emissions would be too costly.

The European Union has cap-and-trade systems in place and some experts attribute the lack of US legislation for the slow pace of global talks on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, with China insisting on clearer commitments.