Washington (CNN) – A top White House adviser said Sunday that the limited, non-binding agreement between the administration and four other countries was a step in the right direction in the battle to control climate change that lays the groundwork for more independent efforts by the United States.
“Nobody says that this is the end of the road,” Obama adviser David Axelrod said Sunday of the agreement which calls on countries to identify their own voluntary commitments to reducing climate change so that compliance can be internationally monitored.
“The end of the road would’ve been the complete collapse of those talks [in Copenhagen],” Axelrod added. “This is a great step forward,” he said of the limited agreement reached just as the 12-day meeting in Copenhagen was ending in what many observers predicted would be failure.
Axelrod pointed out that as part of the agreement China and India have set goals for combating climate change. “We’re going to be able to review what they’re doing. We’re going to be able to challenge them if they don’t meet those goals,” Axelrod told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
Axelrod also said Sunday that the administration intends to pursue efforts to lessen greenhouse gas emissions even in the absence of making a binding international commitment to do so.
“We’re going to pursue this anyway because the president understands that our future lies with a clean energy economy,” Axelrod said, adding that the administration does not want to put the United States at a competitive disadvantage relative to the world’s other large economies. “Now the Chinese, the Indians, the other major economies are coming along and this is the result of [Obama’s] strong leadership.”
While the White House has sought to tout the Copenhagen accord as a success, many environmentalists and political observers view it as the administration’s last ditch effort not to leave the closely watched Copenhagen talks completely empty-handed.
On the domestic front, a Democratic bill for a cap-and-trade system governing carbon emissions has passed in the House but a similar bill has been stalled in the Senate, which is focused on passing health care reform by year’s end.