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Biden Talks Climate Change: Is the Obama Administration Finally Making the Environment a Priority?


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French president Francois Hollande and Vice President Joe Biden covered a lot of ground in a lunch meeting today, but of particular note was their discussion on climate change. Biden gave the recap:

I was impressed in the discussion we had relative to climate change -- and I mean this sincerely, Mr. President -- I could have been sitting in a private meeting with President Obama. He would have not said it in French, he'd say it in English, but you said the same thing. The President pointed out that there is an obligation here that extends way beyond these administrations. There is a need -- there is a need to set out a vision for the young people in both our countries that we understand -- we understand. It's a rallying cry that can be a call for a united effort and support in both our countries to deal with global warming.

The President is committed to do that. And as I pointed out to the Foreign Minister, he is going to have an interlocutor in John Kerry. There is no one in my country who has been, over the period of time he's been in the Senate, more concerned with or knowledgeable about the issues relating to global warming. And so the President is -- President Obama is committed as well.

Since Obama's re-election there seems to be renewed interest from the administration on climate change. "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama said during his inauguration. Although we've seen more words, than actions so far. 

The biggest test on whether the administration can stand behind all the talk will be with a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. I wrote last week that the appointment of John Kerry as Secretary of State throws an interesting twist into the battle, because the pipeline decision rests with Kerry (although he still reports to Obama, of course). But Biden's assertion that no one is more "concerned with and knowledgeable about" climate change than Kerry certainly gives environmentalists some hope.

Right now the door is wide open for how the administration will tackle climate change and other environmental issues in the next four years, with major cabinet positions to fill -- including energy secretary, EPA head, interior secretary, and transportation secretary.

On the GOP side, there is more inaction on climate change as Jeff Spross reported for Climate Progress:

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the top GOP member on the Senate's energy panel, laid out a sweeping blueprint today that includes opening up more federal lands and waters to oil drilling, launching a new green energy "trust fund," and general revamping of U.S. green energy policy -- but no serious climate action.

It's clear that public pressure right now on elected leaders is crucial. The Forward on Climate Rally on February 17 is the next big action on the horizon.


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