Obama to propose 'national plan' on climate change

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama will give a major speech on climate change on Tuesday in which he will propose a "national plan" to curb carbon pollution despite resistance from Congress.

Mr Obama has made taking action on climate change a key goal of his second term but will have to rely on the powers of the presidency as the Republican-led House of Representatives would likely block any fresh legislation.

"I'll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go - a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it," Mr Obama said Saturday.

"We'll need scientists to design new fuels, and farmers to grow them. We'll need engineers to devise new sources of energy, and businesses to make and sell them. We'll need workers to build the foundation for a clean energy economy."

"And we'll need all of us, as citizens, to do our part to preserve God's creation for future generations - our forests and waterways, our croplands and snowcapped peaks," Mr Obama added, in a video statement posted on Twitter.

Past attempts at passing climate change legislation have been stymied in Congress, meaning Mr Obama will likely take executive action, as he did last year by hiking fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

In Tuesday's speech at Georgetown University, Mr Obama was expected to announce tighter regulations on new and existing power plants - particularly those fired by coal - as well as tougher energy standards for consumer appliances.

The administration was also expected to make more federal land available for solar and wind projects in a further boost to renewable energy, according to the Politico news website.

It was unclear whether Mr Obama would speak about the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project to bring oil from Canada's tar sands to the US Gulf Coast that has been slammed by environmentalists and awaits the president's approval.

US government scientists said on Thursday that global temperatures last month tied with 1998 and 2005 as the third warmest for the month of May since record-keeping began in 1880.

Mr Obama's presidency has also witnessed a string of massive storms and other severe weather, including severe drought, record wildfires in the West and waves of tornadoes across the South.

A plan backed by Mr Obama to start a "cap-and-trade" system with the first nationwide restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions failed in 2010 in the Senate, even with the president's Democratic Party in control.

Mr Obama's Republican rivals have slammed such efforts as wasteful government overreach, warning that tougher regulations would drive up the cost of energy and further hobble an already weak economy.

The European Union has cap-and-trade systems in place and some experts attribute the lack of US legislation for the slow pace of global talks on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, with China insisting on clearer commitments.

Earlier this month, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed joint action on climate change - specifically the reduction of hydrofluorocarbons or "super greenhouse gases" - after their first-ever summit in California.

And last week, in a speech in Berlin, Mr Obama said the United States "will do more" to tackle the threat of climate change and that the world must act before it is too late.

"Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet," he said on a blistering hot day at Brandenburg Gate.

He said Germany, which is fast building up solar, wind and other renewable energies, and Europe, had led in efforts to battle a warming planet, melting ice caps and rising seas.

He said the United States had also doubled renewable energies, boosted fuel efficiency in cars and brought down carbon emissions, but added: "We know we have to do more and we will do more."