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Presidential Leadership: President Obama Announces Landmark Climate Action Plan

Grace Gill Qayoumi

Posted June 28, 2013

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This week, President Obama took a big step towards combating climate change and reducing carbon pollution.  In a speech at Georgetown University, the President unveiled his plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. It was an historic moment  in moving the national agenda forward on climate and protecting communities and our natural environment. 

Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for 40 percent of our carbon footprint in the atmosphere.  With the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide reaching an unprecedented 400 parts per million last month, the time to act to curb emissions is now. 

We are already witnessing the severe effects of climate change, which are intensifying. 2012 was the hottest year on record and costliest for climate related disasters, accounting for almost $139 billion in damages, with many of these damages attributed to the worst drought in 50 years and the ravaging impacts from Superstorm Sandy. 

The President has shown admirable leadership by implementing the Executive Authority to direct the EPA to set limits on dangerous carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act

Among the plan’s initiatives are:

  • A Presidential Memorandum that directs the EPA to finalize carbon pollution standards for new power plants, and to develop carbon pollution standards for the nation’s fleet of existing power plants.  (NRDC has presented a plan that shows how such standards can reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 34 percent by 2025).
  • A Presidential directive to the Interior Department to promote clean energy technologies such as solar and wind.
  • Reducing methane and dangerous pollutants such as hydroflurocarbons (HFC’s) in the atmosphere by setting efficiency standards with reachable targets.
  • A goal for the federal government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
  • A benchmark target for the federal government to ensure that the measures in the plan add up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

Through his announcements this week, President Obama has delivered the climate leadership we have so badly needed, and made climate change a part of his legacy.  Climate change poses serious threats to our health, lives and economy and the President has delivered a practical, solutions-based plan to meet those challenges.

NRDC has shown, through its innovative proposal, that cutting emissions from existing power plants can be done in a fair and equitable way. Doing so will help drive our clean energy economy, create new jobs, save consumers money and push America to the forefront on global clean technology. 

President Obama has given us a desperately needed action plan on climate change. That’s a huge step. Now it’s time to execute that plan.

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