June 25, 2014 marked one year since President Obama made his historic speech at Georgetown University, where he introduced the President’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and tackle climate change. The Climate Action Plan (CAP) calls for cuts in carbon pollution, aims to prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and strives overall to make the U.S. a leader in global efforts to address climate change.

Since the announcement last year, the Obama Administration has made serious headway in fulfilling the promises laid out in the CAP. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced its Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants, which account for almost 40 percent of domestic carbon emissions. The Clean Power Plan would reduce carbon emissions 30 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030, through improvements to the efficiency of fossil fuel power plants, substituting lower and zero emission power generation (such as natural gas and renewable energy), and increasing end-use energy efficiency (see EESI article for more details).  In September of last year, EPA announced also announced its rules for new gas and coal fired power plants, requiring facilities to meet carbon emissions requirements before being built. In order to meet the goals set forth by the EPA, coal-fired plants would need to develop and install carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. 

The Administration has also made significant progress in other areas of combating climate change. The Department of Energy (DOE) has released and finalized new energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment and preliminarily affirmed a new commercial building energy code; both of these changes together will cut carbon pollution by approximately 560 million metric tons by 2030. In November of last year, the President brought together 26 governors, county executives, mayors, and tribal leaders to create the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. These leaders have already begun advising the White House on ways to address the impacts of climate change in communities. More recently, in February of this year, the Administration directed the EPA and Transportation Department to work on the next phase of GHG emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, set to be ready March 2016. The U.S. has also been working diligently to end public financing for new conventional coal plants overseas and has already received support from seven other countries, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Investment Bank. According to the Climate Action Plan Progress Report released this week, the efforts made by the Administration in the last year, when implemented, will “cut nearly 3 billion tons of carbon pollution between 2020 and 2025. . . [the] equivalent to taking more than 600 million cars off the road for a year.”

In honor of the Plan’s one-year anniversary, the White House announced on Monday, June 23, that it would be highlighting the economic and public health consequences of climate change, as well as potential solutions, through roundtable discussions and other events. Key White House advisers and leaders from the Department of Treasury, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and others met with representatives from leading insurance agencies to discuss the economic impacts of more frequent and intense extreme weather from climate change, as well as with Tom Steyer, a philanthropist and environmentalist who was key in producing a recent report entitled Risky Business which discusses the economic risks of climate change.  The President also spoke at a dinner for the environmental group League of Conservation Voters on Wednesday, June 25, the exact anniversary of the Climate Action Plan.

The President’s Climate Action Plan has been a positive force in the U.S. to spur change towards a more low energy economy. According to the White House, “through the Climate Action Plan, the U.S. has become a leader in climate change mitigation and preparedness, and our work is just the beginning. As we continue to combat climate change at home, we continue to lead a worldwide effort to prepare for a cleaner, healthier, and safer future.”

Author: Jenifer Collins

For more information see:

White House, Huffington Post, The State