Monday's EPA endangerment finding ups the pressure on Congress to deliver a legislative solution to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s good news. But I’m baffled by some of the excitement among UN leaders, who seem to think that EPA regulation could be a path to strong U.S. participation in the binding global deal they all want. The math is pretty simple: You only need to pursue EPA regulation if you can’t get 60 votes for a climate bill. But if you can’t get 60 votes for a climate bill, then you certainly can’t get 67 votes for a global climate treaty. The sort of international agreement that the United States could be part of while using EPA regulation to deliver on its commitments – that is, an agreement that wouldn’t require Senate or Congressional approval – would look radically different from what most of the negotiators gathered in Denmark have in mind. The endangerment finding is thus a mixed omen for the Copenhagen talks – and negotiators need to keep all of its implications, not just the ones they like, in mind.
Michael A. Levi writes from the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen.
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