On Monday August 3, the Obama administration released its final plan to curb power plant emissions as part of efforts to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent. In addition to encouraging less energy from carbon intensive sources like coal, the plan relies on more renewable energy and less natural gas. However, states have a good deal of flexibility as to how they will execute the plan and they have been given more time to implement it. The Clean Power Plan is the first time that the US has set national climate pollution limits on power plants. President Obama called the plan “the single most important step” America has ever taken in the fight against climate change.
Focusing on power plants is a logical step as there were previously no limits on the amount of GHG pollution that these facilities could emit. Power plants are the single largest source of GHGs accounting for more than a third of all US emissions.
He referred to efforts to slash GHGs as a moral obligation, saying that failure to cut emissions threatens future generations. He also warned that we must act quickly before we pass irreversible tipping points. “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change,” Obama said.
There have been three new additions released in the final draft of the plan. The first increases US emissions reductions target, the second gives states more time to enact the plan and the third involves freezes natural gas production at current levels. The plan cuts carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, that is up from 30 percent cuts announced last year. States have been given an additional year to submit their plans and an additional two years to implement the plan. They now have until 2022 to implement the plan rather than 2020 as originally proposed. Once touted as a bridge fuel by the President, natural gas is to be kept at its current levels in the final version of the plan.
The Obama administration estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030. This is a small percentage of the annual price tag of climate inaction which has been pegged at $150 billion according to a White House report titled, “The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change.”
The plan can be expected to accelerate clean energy innovation and improve energy efficiency. It also sends a powerful signal to the energy industry, the business community, investors, and the wider world that America is committed to climate action.
The final version of the clean power plan comes after hundreds of thousands of people submitted comments to the EPA and almost 2000 people commented during a number of public hearings.
“We know that transition to clean energy is not only possible, it’s affordable. In fact, every time EPA has used the Clean Air Act to limit air pollution, it has ended up boosting our economy. Overall, the benefits have outweighed the costs by thirty to one. And every past rule has saved lives – tens of thousands of them.
Hiding from challenges is not what Americans do,” EDF President Fredd Krupp said. “And it is certainly the wrong path for us and the generations to come.”
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