The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block President Obama's climate change plans, in a move that is seen as largely symbolic. In two separate votes concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to limit the CO2 from all existing and future power plants, the currently Republican-controlled House blocked the measures that Obama was trying to pass before the COP21 climate talks in Paris, in an attempt to weaken his position during the discussions.
This move, however, will probably have little overall effect, as Obama has already said that he will veto any resolutions made in U.S. Congress regarding these measures. The White House has already issued a statement saying that this move from the Republicans “threatens the health and economic welfare of future generations by blocking important standards to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector that take a flexible, common sense approach to addressing carbon pollution.”
The move in the House follows an earlier vote by the Senate, which is also controlled by the Republicans, which pushed through the changes to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to begin with, meaning they were effectively voting to revoke the plan. The Clean Power Plan consists of two parts: the first sets a limit on the amount of CO2 that is allowed to be emitted by any new or future power plant built, while the second – which became active in August – details how any existing power plant would need to cut its emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The votes in both the House and the Senate were largely along party lines, although three Democratic Senators who have large coal industries in their state did vote with the Republicans, while three moderate Republicans backed the EPA. The move was generally seen as symbolic though, in a move to send a message to the rest of the world at the climate talks that lawmakers in the U.S. are not in agreement with the policies they are trying to set. This stance is also reflected in the current Republican Presidential nominees, who have all pledged to either block or undo Obama’s climate change policies.
For the time being, this matters little though, as the White House has stated Obama will use his powers to veto any changes to the Clean Power Plan. He has already vowed to make the U.S. the world leader on tackling climate change, demonstrated in part by finally blocking the building of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, despite the fierce resistance from his opposition.