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Obama unveils new climate change team

Nobel physics laureate Steven Chu addresses the press after he is introduced as energy secretary by President-elect Barack Obama during a press conference at the Drake Hotel December 15, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Following the introductions, Obama was questioned about the nature of Chicago politics and the recent arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) Dec 15, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama Monday named his energy and environmental chiefs and vowed a new dawn for US leadership to combat climate change after eight years of Republican foot-dragging.

Obama nominated Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his energy secretary, placing the expert in renewable energy on the frontlines of climate change policy and ending the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

"This will be a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time. We can't afford complacency nor accept more broken promises," the president-elect told a news conference.

"We won't create a new energy economy overnight. We won't protect our environment overnight. But we can begin that work right now if we think anew and if we act anew," he said.

Joining Chu will be Lisa Jackson, chief of staff to the New Jersey governor, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Obama also appointed Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator under president Bill Clinton, to the new job of White House "climate czar" overseeing the battle against global warming.

And Nancy Sutley, a senior adviser to Obama's transition team, was named chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Despite an economic recession hitting the United States, Obama is promising to unwind the environmental policies of President George W. Bush, whose refusal to ratify the Kyoto pact on climate change disgusted green campaigners.

Chu, a scientist and Washington outsider, won his Nobel in 1997. Since 2004 he has been running the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, which has a budget of 645 million dollars and a staff of 4,000.

As energy secretary, Chu will lead Obama's ambitious agenda to generate 2.5 million new jobs through "green" and new technologies aimed at making America more energy efficient and less reliant on foreign oil.

Jackson, who trained as a chemical engineer, vowed to restore teeth to the EPA, which during the Bush administration saw its funding slashed, scientific findings censored, and enforcement efforts downplayed.

In one notorious example, the EPA backed off a finding that said climate change was a risk to public welfare. The findings would have led to the nation's first mandatory global-warming regulations.

Despite the costs to industry as the US recession bites, Obama has promised to set caps on domestic emissions of greenhouse gases and reposition the United States in the vanguard of international action.

"Some say we have to concentrate exclusively on reestablishing the health of the economy," Chu said.

"I look forward to being part of president-elect Obama's team which believes we must repair the economy and put us on a path forward towards sustainable energy."

At UN climate talks in Poland last week, many delegates were delighted at the passing of the Bush administration as the international community attempts to craft a successor to the Kyoto pact.

"This climate conference will go down in history as the retirement party for the Flat Earth Society of the United States of America," said Edward Markey, the senior lawmaker on climate change issues in the House of Representatives.

But Obama's room to maneuver may be curtailed by both the US recession and the limited time left before the deadline of December 2009 for completing a new UN climate treaty.

"Just as we work to reduce our own emissions, we must forge international solutions to ensure every nation is doing its part," Obama said Monday.

"As we do so, America will lead not just to the negotiating table. We will lead as we always have through innovation, through work and pursuit of a common purpose."

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Walker's World: EU's bad crisis deal
Washington (UPI) Dec 15, 2008
As usual, the leaders of the 27 EU countries resolved the insults and arguments of the preceding weeks and reached what looked like a reasonable compromise at their summit in Brussels. On examination, however, Europe is paying a steep price for a poor and somewhat squalid deal.

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