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The President’s “Climate Action Plan”

Posted: July 2nd, 2013

Author: All4 Staff 

On June 25, 2013 President Obama released his much anticipated Climate Action Plan (Plan).  Driving home the point that changes to cut our carbon pollution should be done to forge a better tomorrow for our future generations, the Plan highlights three (3) specific areas in which the President hopes that the United States, as a whole, can improve on, as follows:

(1)    Cut Carbon Pollution in America

Although our country emitted less carbon emissions in 2012 than during any given year within the past two (2) decades, the President recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done.  The centerpiece of the President’s Plan is a commitment to continue to cut carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants through the promulgation of GHG emission standards. 

As described in Megan Uhler’s historic blog, U.S. EPA first proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) on April 13, 2012.  However, since U.S. EPA failed to issue the final rule within one (1) year of the original April 13, 2012 proposed version, the rule must be “terminated” and U.S. EPA must propose, accept comments on, and finalize a new version of the rule.  U.S. EPA recently announced its intent to re-propose the rule during September 2013, and all affected parties are curious as to whether the re-proposal will this time include unique standards for coal- vs. gas-fired plants.  The President has also directed U.S. EPA to propose a rule that will apply to existing power plant in June 2014 and to finalize those rules within a year later, with the understanding that the NSPS for new plants must be finalized prior to finalization of the NSPS for existing plants.

In addition to implementing new standards on the power industry, the President has set new goals for the use of renewable energy within America.  The President has specified that 10 additional gigowatts of renewables on public lands shall be permitted by 2020 and has also specified goals for both the Department of Defense (the largest consumer of energy in the U.S.) and for federally subsidized housing.  To help support these goals and other clean energy innovation, the President has increased funding for clean energy technology by 30 percent in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. 

The President has addressed both the transportation sector and the energy usage of American families and businesses.  The Plan states that work to find alternative fuel options for transportation will continue to be invested in and fuel economy standards will continue to be increased.  For American families and businesses, the Plan promises that (1) the Department of Energy will establish new energy efficiency standards, (2) various government agencies will invest in energy efficiency technology so that it may become a more affordable investment, and (3) the Better Buildings Challenge will continue to help American commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

The Plan addresses the reduction of other GHG emissions, specifically hydrofluorocarbons and methane emissions.  To reduce the emission of hydroflurocarbons, the Plan places responsibility in U.S. EPA’s hands, stating that when possible, the use of harmful chemical alternatives shall be prohibited and low-emission technology should be identified and invested in.  The Plan suggests two (2) approaches for reducing methane emissions: (1) through the development of an interagency (U.S. EPA and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Labor and Transportation) comprehensive methane strategy. The strategy will address emissions data, data caps, new technologies and best practices for reducing methane emissions; (2) through a collaborative approach across the entire economy, which will include additional loans and investments in new technology.

Finally, the Plan states that in order to continue to reduce carbon pollution, America must continue to build, preserve, and maintain the country’s forests.  The Administration suggests that the improvement of soil and water quality, the reduction of wildfire risk, and the identification of new approaches will further protect and restore America’s forests.

Overall, the Plan believes that the Administration needs to be the leader and driver for cutting carbon pollution. Government agencies need to continue to lead the way by cutting their own carbon emissions, thereby providing an example for the rest of the country to follow.

 (2)   Prepare the U.S. for the Impacts of Climate Change

Despite the fact that work has been done to combat future climate change due to GHG pollution, there will be impacts from past pollution which will inevitably be felt.  First, the Plan outlines ways in which to build stronger and safer communities and infrastructure.  The Plan suggests establishing state, local, and tribal task forces to tackle the key actions needed for communities to become prepared for climate changes.  The Plan suggests that the Federal government will continue to be involved via support and assistance, when needed, to help communities prepare for future climate changes.  This will include the communication of how to boost the resilience of buildings and infrastructure.  The Plan also includes tackling rebuilding and learning from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Additionally, the Plan addresses how the U.S. can protect both our economy and our natural resources from future climate changes.  The most important aspect is to identify which key sectors have vulnerabilities and what can be done to protect these areas. Overall, the country needs to begin to better prepare for future droughts, floods, and forest fires all by maintaining and conserving land, water, and agricultural resources.

Finally, to prepare the U.S. for future climate changes the Plan suggests turning to science.  The Plan suggests the use of the $2.7 billion in the Presidents Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, to increase the understanding of climate-change impacts to develop models and tools to respond to both the long-term and short-term effects of climate changes.  The Plan describes the creation of a Climate Data Initiative which will help to organize the development a climate resilience toolkit.  This toolkit will be available to the public and will help not only with the rebuilding of post Hurricane Sandy communities, but with the assessment of environmental security of current and future communities.  

(3)    Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

The final area which the Plan addresses is the need for the U.S.’s leadership not only in domestic climate change affairs, but in international climate change affairs as well.  The Plan states that continued effort of multilateral engagement with major international economies will be enhanced through efficiency gains in the building sector.  Bilateral cooperation with major emerging economies will also be enhanced to further decrease GHG emissions.  The U.S. will continue to combat short-lived climate pollutants by leading both the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollution (Coalition) and the Global Methane Initiative (Initiative).  The efforts of the Coalition and Initiative will continue to reduce black carbon and methane emissions from all over the world. Just as is the case on the domestic front, the Administration will continue to address the need to improve the conservation world’s forests in order to further combat GHG emission.

The Plan largely focuses on how the Administration can lead the world in the use of renewable, clean, and efficient energy sources.  The Administration hopes to be a global leader and provide financial and regulatory support for renewable and clean energy projects, promote the use of clean fuels (natural gas or renewables), support safe and secure nuclear power, help to develop clean coal technologies, and lead the way in developing programs to improve energy efficiency worldwide.  The Administrator hopes to continue to be a leader in discouraging wasteful consumption of fossil fuels, to promote public financing towards cleaner energy, and to help strength the global resilience to future climate changes.

Overall, the Plan calls to attention the need to continue to take action to combat future climate changes due to the emission of GHGs.  The President’s full “Climate Action Plan” can be found here, and a quick fact sheet on the plan can also be found here.


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