Clean Power Plan

Obama’s Clean Power Plan finalised, stronger than anticipated

Barack Obama delivering the finalised Clean Power Plan. Photo credit: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst.
By Anders Lorenzen

As Republicans and Democrats in USA are focusing on their 2016 presidential campaign, Obama has chosen this time to announce the finalization of his Clean Power Plan.

Directed towards the younger generation, Obama took to social media to spread his climate message in this video shared multiple times on Twitter and Facebook.

Prior to Monday last week the Obama Administration had published a factsheet about the plan and updates on what was originally proposed. The final version of Obama’s Clean Power Plan said it intended to be more ambitious than originally proposed. It would reduce carbon emissions by 32% by 2030, from 2005 levels. An increase of 9%.

And last Monday afternoon (2.15 EDT) Obama held a press conference about the plan, and why tackling climate change has become his number one issue. He even took time out to talk about a personal encounter with smog in Los Angeles in the 80’s, describing how he could hardly breathe. This is symptomatic of how personal the battle with climate change has become for the president, commentators argued. He acknowledged that the plan would be fiercely opposed by Republicans, and jokingly said they opposed it before it had even been proposed. But he reaffirmed, contrary to what opponents say, that the plan would actually create jobs, save Americans money and that it would be good for both the environment and the economy.

Power plants in USA are responsible for the largest share of emissions , and therefore these are the primary targets. This would be the first time ever, that carbon is being regulated at US power plants; and opponents describe this as a war on coal and a job killer.

The White House say that the Clean Power Plan would create a cleaner energy system. It would reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by 90%, and create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability, resulting in 30% or more renewable energy generation by 2030. This would save enough energy to power 30 million homes, and give a head start to wind and solar deployment. It would also prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities, and continue American leadership on climate change.

The Obama Administration has worked with states individually to agree a fair level of regulation, as some are more reliant on climate harming fossil fuel powered energy capacity than others. State plans are due to be finalized in September 2016. But the White House say they have given states more time to prepare for those regulations as they won’t come into force before 2022. The plan argues that it sets targets that are fair, by reflecting the way the electricity grid operates.

But states that make early clean energy investments would be rewarded through an initiative called the Clean Energy Incentive Program. The program would award credits to states for electricity generated by renewables started in 2020/ 2021, before the regulations come into force in 2022.

The White House argues that the plan would make clean energy cheaper, as since 2010 the average cost of a solar PV system has dropped by half, and wind is increasingly becoming competitive nationwide. The plan would drive further investment into cleaner forms of energy.

But fundamentally the White House says that the Clean Power Plan shows that the US is serious about tackling climate change. By setting ambitious CO2 reductions targets less than half a year before the crucial Paris climate talks in December (COP21), it would become more difficult for large developing economies like China and India to claim that the US is not doing enough.

The White House further stated that Obama’s mission to tackle climate change had already had visible impacts in the US. Fifty states have now got demand-side energy efficiency programs, 37 states have got renewable energy portfolios or goals, while ten states have got market-based greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.

The largest environmental group in the US called it the most significant step any US president has taken to combat climate change. Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune commented: ‘’Today marks the end of an era for dirty power plants that have spewed dangerous pollution into our air without limits for too long.  It signifies a new era of growth for affordable and safe clean energy sources that don’t fuel climate disruption, and sicken our communities. With 200 coal plants announced to retire and clean energy growing at record levels, the US is now taking a huge next step to curb dangerous carbon pollution.  Today is a victory for every American who wants clean air to breathe, and for the millions of activists and concerned citizens who organized to make sure this day would finally come.’’

The Executive Director of Greenpeace US, Annie Leonard, did not share Mr. Brunes optimism commenting: ‘’With the release of today’s Clean Power Plan, it’s clear that President Obama is serious about cementing his climate legacy, but until he takes steps to ensure the vast majority of fossil fuels remain in the ground, his legacy is as vulnerable as an Arctic Ice Sheet. In addition, the President must use the leadership he’s showing in this country not just to join but to encourage, in Paris, all countries to sign a legally binding agreement to reduce climate pollution “

Republicans have made it clear several times that they don’t like the plan, and it is opposed by every single one of their 17 presidential candidates. Obama has said he would veto any move to block the regulations.

Related news:

The first step of Obama’s climate plan comes into motion

US: long awaited power plants regulation proposed

World’s two largest CO2 emitters appear to show ambition at New York climate summit, while the UK stands still

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