Obama acts to reverse Bush climate policy


US president Barack Obama today opened the way for states to set stricter limits on greenhouse gas emmissions from cars in a major reversal of the Bush administration’s environment policy.

The president told the US Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider California's request, denied under president George W. Bush, that would allow it to impose stricter limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for contributing to global warming.

As many as 18 other states have indicated they may follow California's lead, putting tailpipe emissions standards that are tougher than federal requirements into effect.

"The federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Obama said at the White House, taking a stab at his predecessor's policies.

"California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to 21st century standards. And over a dozen states have followed its lead."

The president also directed the Department of Transportation to move forward with setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards for 2011 by March, giving automakers an 18 month period to impose them.

He also instructed the US government in general to become more energy efficient.

"The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts. We will be guided by them," he said.

Mr Obama laid out broad principles that he said his administration would follow. It was time for the United States to lead on climate change, he said, and reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

"It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil," he said, adding previous administrations had made similar goals.

"We need more than the same old empty promises. We need to show that this time it will be different," he said.

The US State Department is expected to name Todd Stern, a senior White House official under former president Bill Clinton, as its climate change envoy, two people familiar with the decision said today.

Mr Stern coordinated the Clinton administration's Initiative on Global Climate Change from 1997 to 1999 and acted as the senior White House negotiator in the Kyoto negotiations on climate change.