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Obama Praises 196-Country Climate Deal; Republicans Say Pact Not Legally Binding

Obama Praises 196-Country Climate Deal; Republicans Say Pact Not Legally Binding

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the climate agreement at the White House in Washington, December 12, 2015. The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming. | (Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

While President Barack Obama Saturday hailed the ratification of a universal pact, signed by diplomats from 196 nations in Paris to slow global warming by adopting green energy sources and cutting down on emissions, Republicans responded by saying the United States is not legally bound to the agreement without approval by Congress.

"The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis," Obama told reporters, after 196 countries approved the climate accord at the 21st Conference of Parties on Saturday to bring down pollution levels so as to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages and "and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels."

"It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way," Obama said.

The deal also pledges that the developed world will mobilize at least $100 billion a year for developing countries to help them adapt to the effects of climate change.

"I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world," Obama said, adding that this is "the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got."

Obama has not been able to have much legislative success in Congress to deal with "climate change," and Republicans have opposed his unilateral actions.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, reacted to the climate pact Saturday.

"This agreement is no more binding than any other 'agreement' from any Conference of the Parties over the last 21 years," he said, according to CNN. "Senate leadership has already been outspoken in its positions that the United States is not legally bound to any agreement setting emissions targets or any financial commitment to it without approval by Congress."

However, a senior administration official was quoted as saying, "This agreement does not require submission to the Senate because of the way it's structured… The pieces that are binding are already part of existing agreements."

From L-R, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21 and French President Francois Hollande react during the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters//Stephane Mahe)

The expectations of the scientific and environmental activist communities are also not very high.

"This didn't save the planet," Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, told CNN, of the agreement. "But it may have saved the chance of saving the planet."

"The Paris Climate Agreement is not a fair, just or science-based deal," said Erich Pica, president of the eco-watchdog group Friends of the Earth, according to NBC News. "The result is in an agreement that could see low-lying islands and coastlines swallowed up by the sea, and many African lands ravaged by drought."

Obama agreed "the problem's not solved because of this accord," but added that "the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis."

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