President Obama once again raised the bitterly, politically divise issues of US fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to the forefront of the national political agenda today, revealing new aspects of his administration’s national climate change action plan during a speech given at Georgetown University.
The president characterized US efforts “to lead the global fight against carbon pollution as a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations.” The president’s plan centers on taking action on three broad fronts: cutting carbon pollution across the US; preparing the US for the impacts of climate change; and leading international efforts to address climate change.
“Climate change represents one of the major challenges of the 21st century, but as a nation of innovators, we can and will meet this challenge in a way that advances our economy, our environment, and public health all at the same time,” according to the White House.
Obama sets the stage for the US to lead the global effort to reduce carbon pollution, combat climate change
Taking action to both mitigate and adapt to climate change throughout society, President Obama’s laid out his agenda for tackling climate change in his speech at Georgetown University. The comprehensive strategic plan takes action to:
- Cut Carbon Pollution in the US:
In 2012, U.S. carbon pollution from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades even as the economy continued to grow. To build on this progress, the Obama Administration is putting in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution—just like we have for other toxins like mercury and arsenic —so we protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills. For example, the plan:
- Directs EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholder to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;
- Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies;
- Directs DOI to permit enough renewables project—like wind and solar – on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; designates the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting; and sets a new goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020; while maintaining the commitment to deploy renewables on military installations;
- Expands the President’s Better Building Challenge, focusing on helping commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings cut waste and become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020;
- Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings;
- Commits to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption post-2018; and
- Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons; directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy; and commits to protect our forests and critical landscapes.
- Prepares the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change:
Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country. Building on progress over the last four years, the plan:
- Directs agencies to support local climate-resilient investment by removing barriers or counterproductive policies and modernizing programs; and establishes a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the Federal government can take to help strengthen communities on the ground;
- Pilots innovative strategies in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts; and building on a new, consistent flood risk reduction standard established for the Sandy-affected region, agencies will update flood-risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects;
- Launches an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change through a public-private partnership with the healthcare industry;
- Maintains agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and landowners; and helps communities prepare for drought and wildfire by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership and by expanding and prioritizing forest- and rangeland- restoration efforts to make areas less vulnerable to catastrophic fire; and
- Provides climate preparedness tools and information needed by state, local, and private-sector leaders through a centralized “toolkit” and a new Climate Data Initiative.
- Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change:
Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone. That is why it is imperative for the United States to couple action at home with leadership internationally. America must help forge a truly global solution to this global challenge by galvanizing international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepare for climate impacts, and drive progress through the international negotiations. For example, the plan:
- Commits to expand major new and existing international initiatives, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries;
- Leads global sector public financing towards cleaner energy by calling for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired powers plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world’s poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and
- Strengthens global resilience to climate change by expanding government and local community planning and response capacities.
The White House has put together an excellent, visually rich infographic that summarizes the President’s national climate change action plan.
Main image: Associated Press