The candidate Obama vowed that he would address climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide  and other greenhouse gas pollutants. Copenhagen was an occasion when, besides opposition from  the Chinese authorities, every one was able to see a US President handcuffed by its Congress. As the Senate had refused to enact climate change legislation, it would not believe in the President’s bluff to use  EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as a regulation – but indeed this came into force on January 2.  President Obama did not have much choice – sometimes a President may enjoy being in such position–  his hand being forced by the Clean Air Act and a 2007 Supreme Court decision. 

The EPA limit on gases now concerns all those planning to build new facilities in the US, or to make  major modifications to existing plants. Over the next decade, the EPA plans to regulate all sources of  greenhouse gases, imposing efficiency and emissions requirements on most industries and regions.  It would be quite a paradox to see a President without a majority in Congress able to push forward his  pre-electoral vows. Such are the ways of the US Democracy. Still, it’s democratic. And despite a lot of  opposition, this could bring more jobs to the market and not the contrary.

It is also to the credit of Todd Stern, Special US Envoy to the Climate Change negotiations, who is in  charge of all actions on the issue inside and outside the US. It shows that the US administration, which is  having a hard time with the Congress, is still moving forward. 2011 is going to be the year that will give birth  to the next Kyoto protocol in 2012. Without a clear and concrete advance in the US, many countries, in particular  the developing countries, will be reluctant to believe the good words the US are keen to address to  them. For everyone to carry out their own commitments and gauge the others’ progress, the US effort will  do a lot towards finding the right way to design transparent communication between all parties.  This hand grenade will do more than just upset the Congress, it could really mark the starting point for  a new multilateral agreement in the months to come. We’ll see what South Africa will bring to the next  meeting of the parties.