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Obama finalizes historic Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

Photo by: Chuck Kennedy, the White House, 2009

The centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change strategy – the Clean Power Plan – is now finalized.

It is the single biggest and most ambitious action the US has ever taken to tackle climate change. Under the initiative, the country will reduce carbon emissions by 32% on 2005 levels by 2030, lining up with the offer it made as part of this year’s international climate negotiations taking place in Paris.

Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists said:

The Clean Power Plan provides us with our best shot to meet our international climate goals and lead the rest of the world towards a strong international climate agreement. This will also be a catalyst for a clean energy economy at home that will benefit all states through a more diverse energy supply, cleaner air and homegrown job growth.

The finalised plan is more ambitious than previous draft – which called for a 30% emissions cuts – but it also comes with a delayed first year for compliance.

Now, states don’t have to begin reporting their progress until 2022; instead of the 2020 deadline previously suggested.

In addition to accelerating the transition away from coal, the Clean Power Plan seeks to prevent a one-to-one shift to natural gas for electricity generation in the US and “doubles down” on renewables, creating a new program encouraging states to deploy more renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Rhea Suh, president, Natural Resources Defense Council said:

The Clean Power Plan will slash the pollution that worsens smog and intensifies cases of asthma and other respiratory diseases. It’s protecting our health and homes, our lives and livelihoods.

Opposition for the plan has come from expected corners, namely fossil fuel companies and the politicians and interests groups they fund, with warnings that resistance to the plan could amount to a prolonged legal fight “reminiscent of Obamacare”.

But while utilities and gas trade groups were left unhappy, support for the scheme is being seen across all sectors of the US, as well as from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

 

Prior to Monday’s announcement, hundreds of American companies expressed support for the plan and some of the country’s largest businesses committed to invest at least $140 billion to take on climate change.

Ceres’ Mindy Lubber said:

The Clean Power Plan is the right measure at the right time. It’s a flexible, practical and economically sound blueprint to transition America toward a low-carbon future. That’s why 365 leading companies, from small local businesses to iconic Fortune 500 brands, are supporting the EPA rule publicly and are calling for timely finalization of state implementation plans by state governors

Meanwhile, health advocates from coast to coast are heralding the plan’s finalization saying it will avoid 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.

Social justice leaders also praised Monday’s announcement given the disproportionate impacts coal pollution has on poor and minority families.

Despite these predictable attacks, the Clean Power Plan’s anticipated positive impacts on public health, the economy and the chances for future generations to inherit a safe planet are driving the policy’s popularity.

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