U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday praised the landmark climate agreement reached in Paris as bold and historic, terming it the best chance of saving the planet from the effects of global climate change.
“The American people can feel proud today as this historic accord is a tribute to U.S. leadership. We’ve transformed the United States into the global leader over the last seven years in fighting climate change,” Obama said.
He said the agreement shows what is possible when the world stands as one, and added: “This conformity represents the best chance we have for the planet, we have to save this.”
In his speech at the White House hours after the deal was done, Obama said, “No agreement is perfect, including this one,” and that the discussions, which involve nearly 200 nations are always a challenge.
“Even having all the set targets met in Paris, we can only be a part of the way as it comes to the cutting down carbon from the atmosphere,” he added.
Obama has taken the issue of fighting global climate change as the top priority of his presidency amid rigid resistance against his attempt by Republicans in Congress.
Republican Jim Inhofe, head of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, a skeptic of global warming, said the climate deal was “no more important issue to the U.S. than the Kyoto Protocol in 1997,” the last major climate agreement.
Unlike the Kyoto pact, reached while Democratic President Bill Clinton was in office, the Paris climate agreement will not be an entirely legally binding contract, which would almost definitely fail to pass in the U.S. Congress.
Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, concluded that the Kyoto pact was providing the big rising economies like China and India a free ride and would cost American jobs. After signing the agreement, Washington never endorsed it.
“The Senate has already expressed its position that the U.S. is not officially bound to any accord setting emission targets or any monetary commitment to it unless it is approved by the Congress,” Inhofe said.
Besides Inhofe, few Republicans also expressed opinions on the agreement.
Earlier, the Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump expressed doubt in the science that climate warming is due to carbon emissions, mentioning the global temperature “goes up and it goes down too.”
Principal Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave a statement via Twitter appreciating the agreement and pushing back against the critics.
“We cannot afford to be slowed by the climate skeptics or deterred by the defeatists who doubt America’s ability to meet this challenge,” Clinton said, promising to take climate change a top priority if elected president.
Representative Raul Grijalva, a top Democrat on the Committee on Natural Resources, insisted immediate action by the Republican-led Congress to fund and support the Paris Agreement.
“Too many people have spent their careers claiming that climate change is a hoax committed by shadowy climate groups and Machiavellian researchers,” Grijalva said. “The U.S. public knows well that’s not the fact.”