Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said President Obama is "making promises he can't keep" on the international climate change agreement reached on Saturday.
McConnell noted that the agreement could be reversed if the GOP wins the White House next year and the president should remember that the agreement "is subject to being shredded in 13 months."
"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, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement Saturday night.
Obama said the climate agreement made Saturday night by almost 200 nations "can be a turning point for the world" and credited his administration for playing a key role. He and Secretary of State John Kerry predicted it would prompt widespread spending on clean energy and help stem carbon pollution blamed for global warming.
"We've shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge," Obama said from the White House. He said the climate agreement "offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have."
"In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investments," Obama said.
Obama said the world leaders meeting in Paris "met the moment" and that people can be more confident "the planet will be in better shape for the next generation." Obama said the agreement is not perfect, but sets a framework that will contain periodic reviews and assessments to ensure that countries meet their commitments to curb carbon emissions.
But as with Obamacare, the president’s signature health care reform, the victory rests on shaky ground. Republicans in Congress, many of whom question whether human activity is affecting the global climate, are vowing to kill Obama’s domestic regulations, which they paint as a job killer, an economic disaster, and a “war on coal.”
And Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said that Americans can expect the administration to cite the agreement as an excuse for establishing emission targets for every sector of the U.S. economy.
Kerry said from Paris: "I have news for Senator Inhofe. The United States of America has already reduced its emissions more than any other country in the world."
In an interview taped for CBS' "Face the Nation," Kerry called the climate pact "a breakaway agreement" that will change how countries make decisions and "spur massive investment."
Kerry acknowledged that a Republican president could undo the agreement, but said there is already plenty of evidence that climate change is having a damaging and expensive impact with more intense storms, wildfires and melting glaciers.
The Republican-controlled Congress already voted this month to block the centerpiece of Obama’s climate agenda, rules that would cut emissions by one third from the U.S. fleet of power plants.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released in November suggested Republican candidates are in tune with their constituents’ wishes on the subject of climate.
Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans surveyed said global warming was not a serious problem. A little less than half of those polled, regardless of political affiliation, thought the federal government should do more to deal with global warming.
“The Paris agreement is not a fair, just or science-based deal,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S. “The United States has hindered ambition. The result is an agreement that could see low-lying islands and coastlines swallowed up by the sea, and many African lands ravaged by drought.”
The Paris deal was “more of the same —- lots of promises and lots of issues still left unresolved,” said Stephen Eule, vice president for climate and technology with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The White House’s overall domestic strategy of making energy more expensive and less abundant to satisfy international constituencies, many of whom compete against the United States, should worry the business community, American workers, and consumers.”
Still, as with health care, opponents may find it hard to undo Obama’s environmental legacy.
The power-plant rules will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the administration has a strong track record on pollution cases. And in the private sector the tide has, arguably, been turning. Utilities have already shuttered dozens of coal-fired power plants in recent years.
Last week, Ford Motor Co. said it plans to invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicles to meet ambitious new auto emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration.
“People in the Republican party I speak with know they’re on the wrong side of history on this issue, like with gay marriage,” said Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And Obama is sticking it to them. He’s saying, do you really want to be the party that’s against science and against what people want?”
Democratic lawmakers applauded Obama's efforts.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi hailed it as a "monumental moment" and praised Obama for his leadership on the issue.
Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic minority leader, said climate change poses one of the greatest threats the world has ever known, and that no country acting alone can stem the tide.
"The time to act is now," the Nevada lawmaker said.
Material from The Associated Press and Bloomberg was used in this report.
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