Highlights From Obama’s Climate Action Speech

Created:
Thu, 2013-06-27 10:15

President Obama took a bold leadership stance during his June 25th speech from Georgetown University, where he put forth his plan to combat climate change. He promised to confront the threats of climate change head-on, with plans that include cutting carbon emissions, preparing our nation to deal with unavoidable climate change impacts, and reinforcing America’s leadership role in a global transition to cleaner economies. The President applied his executive authority to enact climate action regulations that affect both business and government.

President Obama photo

Reduce Carbon Emissions

In order to achieve the Copenhagen target of 17% reduction (over 2005 levels) in carbon emissions by 2020, the President has committed to stricter carbon limits for power plants. With 40% of our American’s carbon pollution coming from power plants, the President directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue new pollution standards for both new and existing plants. The details of the restrictions are still being worked out.

Patience with Fossil Fuels

The President was clear that the nature of our economy does not support a sudden stop in the production of fossil fuels and that the transition to a clean energy economy will take time. The U.S. will continue to pursue natural gas as a viable transition fuel that produces fewer carbon emissions and creates jobs. The President acknowledged associated risks and pledged to “keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner and make sure we’re not seeing methane emissions.”

The controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring a fossil fuel product from tar sands in Canada to refineries in the Gulf is still being evaluated by the State Department. The President surprised many by clearly stating that the pipeline would only be approved if it will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions. Obama explained, “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interests. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

More Clean Energy

President Obama discussed several measures to advance clean energy in the U.S. His budget calls for Congress to end tax breaks for big oil companies so that money can instead be invested in clean energy companies. He is calling for updated standards aimed at reducing energy consumption, including fuel economy standards and energy efficiency standards for appliances. The President has also directed the Interior Department to streamline the permitting process for renewable energy projects on public lands. Federal agencies will lead by example with a goal to consume 20% of their electricity from renewables within the next seven years.

A Commitment to Global Efforts

According to President Obama, the U.S. has a responsibility to play a critical role in battling carbon pollution on a global scale. The President called for an end to public financing of new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon capture technology. He has also directed his administration to negotiate toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology. The U.S. will continue to cooperate with other nations to reduce emissions, beginning with the agreement recently reached with China to jointly phase down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons.

Protection From Costly Impacts

We must be prepared to deal with the effects of climate change that cannot be avoided. Efforts include fortifying coastline, reducing wildfire risk, protecting water supplies, and improving power grid infrastructure. The President has committed a portion of the budget to support communities that are preparing to defend against severe climate impacts, and the White House will also factor climate impacts into decisions related to construction projects.

Belief in the American People and A Call To Action

President Obama called on the American people, including the young, the workforce, and big business, to rise to the challenges that climate change presents. Obama declared, “Understand, this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you, to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends,”

One final takeaway from President Obama: “The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies, we’ve used science, we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.”

It’s time to make the old rule obsolete and establish a sustainable future for our planet, our economy, and our families. Start by learning more with Everblue’s training courses in corporate sustainability, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green building.

 By Amy Malloy