WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday invoked his executive authority to undertake a slew of measures aimed at curbing climate change and preparing America for its costly impacts. The speech was hailed by environmentalists who’ve seen their policy priorities largely ignored since the president promised to address climate change in his State of the Union address earlier this year.
“The question is not whether we need to act,” Obama said in a speech at Georgetown University. “The question is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”
Environmental activists were particularly pleased with the president’s comments on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which the president was not expected to discuss. In the speech Obama asked the State Department not to approve the construction of the pipeline unless it can first determine that the pipeline will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” the president said. “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
While it’s unclear what precisely that means for the future of Keystone, it was an encouraging declaration for environmental advocates who’ve fought for years to stop the pipeline’s construction. Jamie Henn of 350.org, the group that’s helped to put the pipeline at the center of the national debate, could scarcely believe it.