Infrastructure & Environment

Obama's Climate Change Plan Builds on State Leadership

Noting that last year was the warmest ever for most states, President Obama released a plan to combat climate change that builds on states' actions around renewable energy development and energy efficiency.
June 25, 2013
President Barack Obama removes his jacket before speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama removes his jacket before speaking about his climate change proposals to limit heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and boost renewable energy production on federal property. AP/Charles Dharapak

The climate change plan outlined by President Barack Obama on Tuesday builds on state action around renewable energy development and energy efficiency, while calling on continued involvement of the states and localities to address the issue.

Obama detailed his three-part climate change plan in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. With little hope of passing any substantial legislation through a gridlocked U.S. Congress, Obama is instead issuing presidential memorandums and other executive actions to combat climate change in three ways: reducing U.S. carbon pollution, leading international efforts to do the same and preparing the United States for climate change and extreme weather.

The president also pledged that his administration won't approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has become a major point of contention between climate skeptics and advocates for stricter climate regulations, unless its backers can demonstrate it won't increase carbon pollution.

"Using less dirty energy. Transitioning to cleaner sources of energy. Wasting less energy... This is where we need to go.," Obama said. "If we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation."

The main piece in the president's plan is working with states and the private sector to set new carbon pollution standards nationwide. When he was first elected, Obama set a goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and he reaffirmed that goal Tuesday.

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The White House noted that at least 35 states have set renewable energy targets and 25 have set energy efficiency targets. Obama is ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to build on that work to create carbon pollution standards for all new and existing power plants.

Obama is also creating a task force of state, local and tribal leaders to advise federal agencies on how best to prepare for climate change and extreme weather. His FY 2014 budget also calls for $200 million in funding for infrastructure improvements to better prepare communities for extreme weather events.

The White House made the case for action through a rash of recent research: Last year was the warmest year ever for the lower 48 states; 12 of the last 15 years are the hottest on record; and more than $110 billion in damage could be attributed to last year's extreme weather events.

"Our planet is changing in ways that will impact all of humankind. Those who already feel the effects of climate change don’t have the time to deny it -- they’re busy dealing with it" Obama said. "I refuse to condemn your generation, and future generations, to a planet that’s beyond fixing."

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