Last night President Barack Obama announced plans to release what he is calling “the most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change” in the United States on Monday. In a video that Obama posted to Facebook, he explains that decades of collected data warn us to take action fast in the fight against climate change, or else face a future of rising sea levels, droughts, extreme weather conditions, and crippled economies around the world (you can watch the video here ). With Obama’s new climate change plan, which promises stricter industry regulation and a huge cut in greenhouse gas emissions, he hopes to ensure the safety of the nation’s future, as well as secure his legacy as one that dealt with climate change head-on.
A Plan in the Works
In 2014, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a plan that would set a limit on the amount of carbon emissions from power plants—the first bill of its kind in the US. In action, the Clean Power Plan promised a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions from US power plants by 2030. By setting standards for carbon pollution from power plants—the single largest source of carbon pollution in the nation, accounting for nearly one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions—the EPA hopes to protect the health of the nation’s future, and aid the environment in the fight against climate change.
In November 2014, the US and China came to a landmark agreement in which both parties agreed to cut carbon emissions and investigate new sources of cleaner, alternative energy. In this agreement, Obama initially planned to cut greenhouse gas emissions made by US power plants by 28 percent from 2005 numbers by 2025.
A New and Improved Climate Change Plan
Obama’s new climate change plan will actually be a revised version of the Clean Power Plan, re-written to include more ambitious goals and stricter regulation on industry. Instead of the initial plan to cut carbon emissions 28 percent by 2025, the revised plan calls for a 32 percent cut by 2030. But that’s not all—the new plan also calls for power plants to start investing in finding cleaner alternative sources of fuel, as it promises credit and resources to industries that comply.
Structurally, Obama’s new climate change plan is nearly identical to the initially-proposed Clean Power Plan, setting up a “cap-and-trade” system in which limits are placed on how much pollution industries can emit, forcing them to pay for additional permits and credits in order to be able to pollute as much as they have to. Obama hopes that by forcing industries to pay in order to pollute, states and corporations will have enough incentive to investigate cleaner and renewable sources of energy.
States will be given target statistics—individually customized for each state—that they must match by 2030. However, how each state goes about meeting these standards is left completely open for their choosing. States have until 2018 to come up with their plans to fight climate change before Congress.
The Long Road Ahead
Many states and industries, even before the bill was proposed threatened to sue immediately, as Obama’s new climate change plan would impose much harsher restrictions on corporations and state economies, threatening profit margins across the nation. Many states and industries have already openly refusing to comply at all, and plan to appeal for the bill to be put on hold until further negotiations can be made. Many government officials such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Rep.) of Kentucky have openly stated a complete defiance to the bill, leading to certain confrontation with the Environmental Protection Agency.
However, it is in the courts where Obama’s new plan will likely face the most danger of getting shut down. A coalition of industry lobbyists called The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council recently stated that roughly 25 states—that’s more than half the country—are ready to join industries in filing lawsuits against the bill.
However, power companies in many of the states refusing to comply with Obama’s new climate change plan are already starting to plan ways in which to meet their new standards. In fact, newer and cleaner factories are being built where older and less efficient ones once stood, reducing greenhouse emissions by almost 13 percent—already about halfway to meeting Obama’s goal!
“Climate change is not a problem for another generation,” Obama stated in his Facebook video, “not anymore.”