“We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and we’re the last generation that can do something about it.”
– President Obama in today’s Clean Power Plan speech
This afternoon, President Obama delivered a speech to announce the Clean Power Plan: the first plan to set carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. This plan has so far been recognized as the biggest step that the U.S. has taken to combat climate change. It is a plan that comes from Environmental Protection Agency after two years of meetings with communities, states, and utilities.
The key piece of the Clean Power Plan is reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the Clean Power Plan:
- The Clean Power Plan charts a path to 30% more renewable energy generation in 2030. This means expanding the clean energy economy, which includes actions like setting new standards for the fuel that heavy-duty vehicles use after 2018, support for local and state policies that cut energy waste, and reducing the federal government’s own greenhouse gas emissions by 28% below 2008 levels by 2020.
- The U.S. is the second biggest carbon emitter in the world. China is first, and at the end of his speech, Obama noted that China is assessing its emissions more seriously too, and it’s because the U.S. is leading the way.
- Speaking of the world at large, the President’s plan is set to build momentum for global action against climate change, including offering more financing for renewable energy options overseas and global free trade for clean energy technology.
- Human life is a huge emphasis in the plan. Obama stressed the link between health and the environment, stating that the Plan will prevent up to 3600 premature deaths, 1700 heart attacks, and 90,000 asthma attacks. In his speech, he also noted that an African-American child is more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma than a white child.
- In fact, the Plan focuses primarily on all the people—particularly low income communities and communities of color—who are most affected by climate change. President Obama’s video that preceded his speech on Monday emphasizes the impact of climate change on communities throughout the nation:
6. The Plan includes an analysis of successes already achieved as well as new opportunities for change in each state. For example, in the Maryland Factsheet, the plan praises organizations like The Housing Authority of Baltimore City, a housing program for Baltimore’s low-income families, for committing to a 20% decrease in its energy consumption within 10 years. (Learn more about how Groundswell switched Hyattsville, MD to clean energy here.)
The Plan includes facts on this level of detail for all the states, because each state is supposed to design a plan for reaching a customized emissions goal that the EPA has set. Incidentally, Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland (also a Democratic candidate in the 2016 Presidential race) tweeted that the Clean Power Plan is great, but that he would want to “expand it to cover large emission sources beyond power plants.”
As Vox explains, Vermont and Washington, D.C. are not included because they don’t have power plants that emit fossil fuels.
7. The White House is responding to critics who fear the Clean Power Plan will harm the economy by sharing how extreme weather (caused by climate change) is costing our economy billions, including an estimated $30 billion for the drought and heatwave happening across the U.S., $1 billion for the western wildfires, and $65 billion for Superstorm Sandy.
8. The Clean Power Plan may face some legal hurdles before it can drive impact—though many of the revisions that the EPA made to the plan since last year’s draft were aimed at dodging legal critiques. The EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gases, but this Plan is a new, more imposing version of that kind of regulation, and it’s chiefly targeted at states instead of the power plants themselves.
9. There is plenty of backlash for the EPA and Obama over this plan, too. Many Republican leaders are arguing that the plan is costly and overreaching, and other activists are arguing that it’s simply not bold enough, and won’t come close to fighting climate change as aggressively as we need.
10. During his speech, Obama touted the plan as “realistic and achievable, bit still ambitious.” Even if the plan is all of those things, we’ll need help and support from all communities, organizations, businesses, and families to build a better clean energy economy that benefits everyone.
Groundswell’s mission is to expand access to clean energy by empowering communities and organizing their purchasing power. Explore our website to learn more about going solar with your home, switching your home or your business to wind power, or making your building more energy efficient.
Read more about the Clean Power Plan on The White House website here.