Tomorrow, President Obama will announce the final version of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, an unprecedented initiative to reduce the country’s carbon emissions.
According to anonymous White House officials, the revised Plan will call for a 32 percent reduction in national carbon emissions, a two percent increase over the target Obama first proposed last June.
“This is the most significant action any U.S. president has taken to curb greenhouse gases,” said one of the officials. “It will form the foundation of the country’s efforts to take on climate change for decades to come.”
The White House kicked off the announcement with a video posted to its Facebook page, in which President Obama addresses the US on the seriousness of climate change.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 2, 2015
“Our climate is changing. It’s changing in ways that threaten our economy, our security and our health,” says Obama in the video. “This isn’t opinion, it’s fact. Backed up by decades of carefully-collected data and overwhelming scientific consensus. It has serious implications for the way that we live now. We can see it. We can feel it.”
The “scientific consensus” he mentions is the more than 97 percent of climate scientists who agree that greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes are trapping thermal energy from the sun (i.e. heat) and warming the oceans and the land.
“Power plants are the single biggest source of the harmful carbon pollution that contributes to the climate change,” Obama goes on to say. “But until now, there have been no federal limits to the amount of that pollution those plants can dump into the air. Think about that.”
The Clean Power Plan sets a national carbon reduction target of 32 percent by the year 2030. To reach this national goal, individual states will have their own goals based on what percentage of their energy portfolio is composed of higher-emitting fuels. For instance, Kentucky currently generates over 90 percent of its electricity from coal – the cheapest but also the dirtiest fossil fuel. The state of Washington, by comparison, generates little electricity from burning coal. Under the proposed EPA plan (which called for a 30 percent national reduction), Kentucky would only be asked to reduce its emissions by 18 percent; Washington, meanwhile, would be asked to cut its emissions by 72 percent. In this way, states that are more reliant on coal will be given a gentler transition into cleaner and more sustainable energies.
States will have until 2018 to submit their plans for how they will meet their individual energy targets.
When the President first proposed the Clean Power Plan in June 2014, Republicans immediately opposed it on principle. The GOP is still opposing it, and fossil fuel interests have threatened to sue the government.
Back in March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to all 50 US governors recommending that they ignore the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. “This proposed plan is already on shaky legal grounds,” McConnell wrote, “will be extremely burdensome and costly, and will not seriously address the global environmental concerns that are frequently raised to justify it.”
According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, states have on the whole ignored the Senator and begun making their preparations to reduce their pollutants.