Even a transatlantic flight can’t completely untether President Obama from congressional Republicans when it comes to cementing his legacy on climate change.
When high-stakes United Nations talks on a new global climate pact open Monday in Paris, Obama and more than a dozen other world leaders will pledge a huge boost in research-and-development funding for low-carbon energy technologies.
Twenty nations will unveil “Mission Innovation,” a joint plan to double their annual R&D investments over the next five years. According to a top White House climate policy adviser, the countries currently invest a total of about $10 billion annually, about half of which comes from the U.S.
But the U.S. government's energy R&D spending has been largely stagnant in recent years, and the U.S. portion of the pledge is reliant on convincing Congress to open its wallet in the name of battling climate change, a threat that many Republicans downplay or even don’t acknowledge.
Relying on the good graces of Congress to make progress on climate change is something that Obama has generally sought to avoid for several years.
Since Congress approved the big stimulus law that funded a suite of energy efforts in 2009—and subsequently killed cap-and-trade legislation in 2010—nearly all of Obama’s climate agenda has rested on executive actions, ranging from much tougher auto-mileage rules to sweeping carbon-emissions limits for power plants that were finalized last summer.