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Obama's Climate Action Plan Will Protect Our Health and Our Communities

Frances Beinecke

Posted June 25, 2013

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President Obama has announced a robust plan for tackling climate change and reducing dangerous carbon pollution. This marks an historic turning point. No longer will power plants be allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon into our atmosphere, threatening our health and environment. Instead, we can clean up our skies and leave future generations with a more stable climate.

Without this kind of presidential leadership, our children and grandchildren would be left to cope with the devastating consequences of unchecked climate change. We can’t pass this burden on to them, especially when we can already see what climate disruption can do to people’s lives. From the Colorado residents who lost their homes in recent fires to the children who suffer more asthma attacks because of dirtier air, Americans are reeling from climate impacts right now.

President Obama’s plan will help us turn the tide. It will make a profound and lasting difference in America’s fight against climate change.

Most significantly the plan will reduce carbon pollution from power plants—the largest source of global warming emissions in the country. America has set limits for arsenic, lead, and mercury, but we let power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want even though it has serious implications for our health. Several states have stepped in and required power plants to cut carbon. Now it’s time for the Environmental Protection Agency to close this loophole and reduce this climate threat.

Setting carbon limits is something the EPA can do right now. It already has the authority—and the duty—under the Clean Air Act to create carbon standards for power plants. The agency can give states the flexibility to figure how to meet those standards. NRDC’s experts outlined a similar approach, and we concluded it can cut carbon pollution 26 percent by 2020 and save people money on electricity bills. This represents real and far-reaching carbon reductions. 

President Obama said today he will issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the EPA to set carbon standards for power plants. This gives the agency clear marching orders. The president used a similar approach when he called on the EPA and the Department of Transportation to raise fuel economy, and they delivered historic clean car standards. Now we know power plant carbon standards have the full weight of the presidency behind them as well.

The president declared that he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline unless the State Department could prove the pipeline would not significantly increase global warming pollution. Since the evidence clearly shows that the pipeline would indeed contribute to climate change, the president has taken a one giant step closer to rejecting this dangerous project.

He also called for reducing other major global warming pollutants such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons. But even as we reduce emissions from fossil fuels, America must also expand our clean energy resources. President Obama’s plan singles out the enormous potential of efficiency to lower costs and reduce pollution. The plan will not only expand efficiency measures, but also sets firm and ambitious targets for reducing carbon pollution through efficiency standards.

These standards have been proven highly effective. A recent set of updated efficiency standards for refrigerators, dishwashers and other products alone will save consumers nearly $80 billion on energy bills and reduce carbon pollution by 100 million metric tons a year by 2035. That’s roughly equivalent to emissions from 25 coal-fired power plants.

Expanding wind and solar power also generates economic growth. Already America doubled the amount of wind power we use in three years and quintupled our solar resources in the last four years. Clean energy companies are creating tens of thousands of jobs in towns and cities across the country. President Obama’s climate plan will spread these opportunities to even more communities. NRDC applauds the president’s target of doubling renewable energy generation on public lands, especially since the administration’s program to drive utility solar development in carefully identified “energy zones” has been such a success.

The details of the president’s policies will be worked out in the days and months ahead. NRDC will be engaged every step of the way to keep the plan on track and make sure it isn't derailed by polluting industries or ideological opponents. We are fully committed to helping the president confront climate change.

We can’t end climate change overnight, but by taking the steps laid out in the president’s plan, we can help protect our families and shield our economy from more extreme weather. The president deserves our gratitude and backing as he moves to tackle the defining issue of our time. Click here to urge your senators to support the president in taking decisive climate action.

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JoyceJun 25 2013 03:12 PM

Today...I researched the Canadian Tar Sands searching for a link to the recent Floods, and I came across Aerial mapping of the Emissions Increase due to Tar Sands Mining. How can we continue to claim that Oil and it's *Pipelines *Ocean Devastation * Spills *Wildlife Wipe-outs....All we ARE Doing, is continuing to Kowtow to the Big Oil Riches invested in Gov't Officials!!!!! I am NOT Supporting until there is Actual SAFE CLEAN ENERGY !!!

BillJun 26 2013 08:28 AM

"The plan will not only expand efficiency measures, but also sets firm and ambitious targets for ***reducing carbon reduction*** through efficiency standards."

SusanJun 26 2013 01:06 PM

Earlier today I signed your email thanking President Obama for his climate speech and promising to stand with him. Now I wish I could take back my signature. According to the information below, Obama's speech endorsed natural gas production through hydraulic fracking, which I strongly oppose. I wish that your email had been more forthright about that issue.

Obama's Climate Action Plan a "Full-Throttle Endorsement" of Fracking - Interviews Available‏

Institute for Public Accuracy
980 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
(202) 347-0020 * *

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

STEVE HORN, (262) 705-5865,, @steve_horn1022

Horn is a research fellow for DeSmogBlog. He wrote yesterday: "President Obama announced his administration's 'Climate Action Plan' for cutting carbon pollution in his second term in the Oval Office at Georgetown University and unfortunately, it's a full-throttle endorsement of every aspect of fracking and the global shale gas market.

"Hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') is the toxic horizontal drilling process via which gas is obtained from shale rock basins around the world, and touting its expanded use flies in the face of any legitimate plan to tackle climate change or create a healthy future for children. ...

"In fact, children’s health and air quality nationwide are directly threatened by the promotion of further fracking and natural gas drilling activity. There is a clear disconnect between the president’s stated commitment to a healthy future for children, and the vast expansion of natural gas drilling and fracking, which are scientifically proven to be polluting the air and drinking water of Americans.

"'Burning natural gas is about one-half as carbon-intensive as coal, which can make it a critical "bridge fuel" for many countries as the world transitions to even cleaner sources of energy,' reads Obama's plan.

"That premise is false. When measured in its entire life cycle - as Cornell University researchers found - fracked gas is actually dirtier than coal and therefore is a bridge to nowhere other than extreme climate disruption. That's due to fugitive methane emissions, conveniently left out of the climate plan: methane is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide."

DAPHNE WYSHAM, (202) 510-3541,

Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She is founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network and director of the Genuine Progress Project.

She said: "President Obama's speech at Georgetown University was a milestone speech on climate change in two aspects: 1) He made it clear he is not afraid to tackle coal as the primary culprit in climate change, and 2) he made a major pivot in how he framed the Keystone XL pipeline debate, no longer talking about 'energy security' or 'jobs' when talking about the pipeline but instead linking 'our national interest' with whether or not the pipeline would have a signficiant impact on the changing climate. Virtually all climate scientists who have weighed in on the Keystone XL pipeline - including NASA's former top scientists, James Hansen, who said it would be 'game over' for the climate if the pipeline went forward - agree: tar sands oil, if exploited, would result in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

"Obama also said he would encourage developing countries to transition to natural gas as they move away from coal, a posture consistent with what he is calling for at home. Such a statement is unfortunate, as it encourages the expansion of fracking on U.S. lands, which results in fugitive methane emissions, water contamination and health problems for nearby communities. The low price of natural gas, while welcome as a replacement for coal, is making truly clean and renewable energy less attractive financially.

"But more significantly, Obama signaled in this speech that he is ready to use his executive authority and is not willing to compromise on two key things: the climate impacts of coal and tar sands."

Additional background: "Obama Declares Keystone XL Will Be Approved" from Forbes.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Celia AlarioJun 26 2013 02:01 PM

so, what are you and NRDC going to do about the fact that natural gas extraction emits methane and is NOT a clean energy.... when will you stand with those of us facing the mess in our air and water from extraction, fracking and otherwise?

Also, what about nuclear power? Can we get your support to stop nuclear power plants? A new one is planned for Green River UT just upstream from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, in a region plagued by uranium milling's remains. Help please?

Also, our community is surrounded by public lands. Instead of renewables and 'clean' (natural gas) on public lands in a mass scale, all the science points to smaller scale, site appropriate locally grown renewables as the answer. Can we get your support promoting that? UT needs strong allies.

Moab UT

Celia AlarioJun 26 2013 02:10 PM

I think it is so important that you, like other big green groups, be explicit about where the President's plan falls short, in addition to celebrating where it makes good advances. And these points I've made above relate to the realities of what Obama said, he is pro nuclear power and considers natural gas clean. This is a real issue.

Frances BeineckeJun 28 2013 04:57 PM

Thank you all for your comments. I think it's important for the environmental community to acknowledge genuine progress when we see it. President Obama laid out a comprehensive national plan to address the signal environmental challenge of our time: climate change.

He directed his administration to put in place the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the source of 40 percent of our carbon pollution. And he gave us more reason to hope he will reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. That will only happen if we ratchet up the public pressure on this issue - and we will.

We will also continue our assertive fight to protect the public from the threats to our health and environment posed by fracking. And we will continue to press for the kinds of advances the president's plan envisions in energy efficiency and renewable power, which can strengthen our energy future without the destruction that comes with fossil fuel use.

Betty SueJun 30 2013 08:24 AM

What about the Gmo foods that are resistant to Poison. I know that is not good for our childrens future either. Now they are talking about putting stronger resistant foods out there for stronger poison, the ones used in agent orange. We need help stopping them.

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