The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
President Obama’s Climate Action Plan
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
With today’s announcement of a national climate action plan, President Obama is pushing forward to tackle the urgent challenge of climate change. This is the most comprehensive climate plan by a U.S. president to date. If fully and swiftly implemented, the Obama Administration can truly reset the climate agenda for this country.
The plan looks to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions in a comprehensive way and takes on the question of how to protect the country from the devastating climate-related impacts we are already seeing today. With a clear, national strategy in place—and concrete steps to implement it—the administration can protect people at home and encourage greater ambition internationally.
Importantly, the president is recommitting the U.S. to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. World Resources Institute’s (WRI) recent analysis demonstrates that meeting this target is achievable, but requires ambitious action across many sectors of the economy. WRI identifies four areas with the greatest opportunity for emissions reductions—power plants, energy efficiency, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane—which are all specifically included in the plan.
The plan is also notable for addressing climate impacts and encouraging increased international engagement. Together, these steps can help the U.S. reclaim lost ground on climate change. While there are many details to be worked out, this plan is a welcome step to putting the U.S. on a pathway to a safer future.
Reducing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants
First off, the president’s plan commits the U.S. to address carbon pollution in existing power plants. Power plants currently represent one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution in the U.S. The president also directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move quickly to finalize the proposed CO2 pollution standards for new power plants.
These actions will be important for protecting people’s health and the planet—and WRI analysis finds that they can be implemented in a way that is flexible and cost effective. It will be important for the EPA to act with a sense of urgency in order to meet the U.S. emissions target. Just as important as the time frame for finalizing these standards is their stringency. Without sufficient ambition, the U.S. will not be able to achieve the reductions it needs by 2020 and in the years beyond.
Increasing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
The additional actions and goals that the President has laid out in the plan for renewable energy and efficiency will be important in allowing stringent power plant standards to be achieved in a cost-effective manner.
On energy efficiency, the president announced a new goal to reduce CO2 pollution by a total of 3 billion metric tons through 2030 through new and existing efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings. This would be a significant reduction, the equivalent of eliminating nearly two years’ worth of emissions from coal power plants.
Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions, as more efficient equipment uses less energy and therefore saves consumers money. There are dozens of products that are excellent candidates for new and updated efficiency standards—some of which are awaiting approval—and many more ways to capture this low-hanging fruit in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. A recent analysis finds that there are a total of six standards that are waiting for approval. Each additional month of delay on these costs consumers $200 million in lost savings and pumps an additional 3 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The plan also calls for doubling renewable energy in the U.S. by 2020 and opening public lands for renewable energy development, to the tune of an additional 10 gigawatts of installed renewable capacity on those lands by 2020. This would be enough energy to power 2.6 million American homes.
This policy is a strong complement to the forthcoming emissions standards, as it could make compliance easier for utilities. The federal government owns roughly 28 percent of land in the U.S.; selectively opening up some public lands for clean energy projects should help ease siting concerns for utilities and project developers.
Reducing HFCs and Methane
The U.S. has been working for years to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs under the auspices of the Montreal Protocol. The recent agreement between the U.S. and China to work together toward this end is an important development in reducing emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. Both chemical and consumer product manufacturers support a planned global phasedown of HFC production and consumption. The plan also acknowledges that there is more the U.S. can and should be doing to eliminate its domestic emissions of HFCs under the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program. The plan also recognizes the importance of curbing emission of methane, another potent greenhouse gas. The President calls for development of an interagency methane strategy that improves data on methane emissions and identifies opportunities to reduce those emissions.
Preparing for Climate Impacts
Climate impacts are already happening globally. The U.S. is experiencing rising sea levels along our coasts, droughts in the Midwest, wildfires in Colorado and torrential rains in the Northeast. These impacts are taking a toll on our homes and our businesses. Drought impacts energy production and agriculture. Sea level rise threatens critical infrastructure and clean water supply. These risks are becoming a reality for people across the country.
In response, the plan aims to help Americans prepare for climate change impacts. Adapting to climate change will require striking the right balance between support and direction from the federal government and locally appropriate solutions. The plan focuses on reducing people’s vulnerability by identifying barriers and reforming policies. These actions can empower states and localities to tailor their adaptation actions to their location-specific climate challenges. It should also help create incentives for businesses to contribute to solutions. As the country rebuilds from Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events of recent years, it will be important to systematically learn what is working and what needs improvement.
International Climate Action
The president calls for greater engagement internationally—and this, too, is critically important. The U.S. can—and should—be a leader on this global challenge. Climate change will bring significant impacts that will affect our economy and our security.
The U.S. should re-engage in a purposeful and constructive way, working with the international community to rally toward an effective and ambitious international climate agreement by 2015. Cooperation on climate change—as signified by the recent announcement between the U.S. and China on HFCs—shows this is an area where collaboration is both necessary and possible. Enhanced U.S. action will catalyze other countries to come forward with a greater sense of ambition and urgency.
Moving Forward with Ambitious Climate Action
Today’s announcement marks a major milestone in the creation of a durable and far-ranging climate plan for the U.S. The details matter, of course, so we’ll be watching for more specific information about what the various agencies will do—and how quickly and strongly they take up this challenge.
This plan puts a marker in the ground that the Obama Administration is ready to take climate change seriously. It is a strong and broad approach—one that stakes new ground, but also builds on existing common-sense actions.
The plan makes clear the responsibility that we all have to take action for today’s communities and for future generations.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.
gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images
Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.
The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland
By Johnny Wood
The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.
The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.
Here are some of the challenges the river faces.
By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.