Obama Announces New “Clean Power Plan” to Combat Climate Change
August 3, 2015
The Obama administration will formally adopt an ambitious regulation for cutting greenhouse-gas pollution on Monday, requiring every state to reduce emissions from coal-burning power plants and putting the country on a course that could change the way millions of Americans get their electricity.
A retooled version of the administration’s Clean Power Plan, first proposed a year ago, will seek to accelerate the shift to renewable energy while setting tougher goals for slashing carbon emissions blamed for global warming, according to administration officials briefed on the details.
The new plan sets a goal of cutting carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent by the year 2030, compared with 2005 levels — a 9 percent jump from the previous target of 30 percent — while rewarding states and utility companies that move quickly to expand their investment in solar and wind power.
PBS Newshour has some more analysis:
Coal-burning produces about 40 percent of the electricity used by Americans, but reliance on coal has been slowly falling for several reasons, including government pollution controls, lower prices for solar and wind energy, and a resurgence of cheap natural gas. In the spring, natural gas surpassed coal as the biggest single source of electricity generation.
Vox’s Brad Plumer has calculated that the president’s rule would shave just 6 percent from U.S. carbon emissions by 2030. Climate science and international equity demand the U.S. cut emissions 80 percent by then. We’re nowhere near that pace.
Still, this plan is not nothing. In its coverage, the Times includes this hopeful gem:
But experts say that if the rules are combined with similar action from the world’s other major economies, as well as additional action by the next American president, emissions could level off enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
That’s a lot of hedging on which to base a climate legacy.
In fact, when compared with the climate plans of his would-be successors on the left—Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley—Obama ranks last in terms of ambition. Clinton, who has frequently aligned herself with the president on climate, announced a preview of her own climate plan last week. It’s fractionally more ambitious than Obama’s, but it essentially just kicks the can forward another few years.
And as Slate’s Daniel Politi writes, there’s no guarantee the plan will endure in its current form after the president leaves office. Obama’s plan faces a phalanx of attacks from the political right, and legal challenges—which may take several years—could find their way to the Supreme Court. Obama has vowed to veto any actions to weaken it from a hostile Congress as long as he remains in office. As Jason Plautz of National Journal writes, the next president may not be so climate friendly, so the ultimate fate of Obama’s climate legacy will be in the hands of others.
Hundreds of businesses including eBay, Nestle and General Mills have issued their support for Barack Obama’s clean power plan, billed as the strongest action ever on climate change by a US president.
The rules, being announced on Monday, are designed to cut emissions from power plants and have been strengthened in terms of the long-term ambition as originally proposed by the president last year, but slightly weakened in the short-term in a concession to states reliant on highly-polluting coal.
White House adviser Brian Deese said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules represented the “biggest step that any single president has made to curb the carbon pollution that is fuelling climate change”. The US is the world’s second biggest carbon emitter after China.