Washington, D.C. — In anticipation of President Barack Obama’s speech this Tuesday on climate change, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of what actions his administration has taken to reduce carbon pollution responsible for climate change and what steps they can take now.
President Obama knows that climate change is the defining challenge of our time and his presidency. Early in his administration, he committed to putting the United States on a path to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change. This commitment—made in Copenhagen in 2009—is a pledge by the United States to reduce its greenhouse-gas pollution to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
There are three primary policies undertaken by the Obama administration that have reduced carbon pollution responsible for climate change:
- Making cars more efficient
- Investing in clean energy as part of an economic recovery strategy
- Reducing super pollutants through domestic, international, and bilateral actions
The first two measures were partially responsible for reducing 2011 greenhouse-gas levels to 7 percent below 2005 levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, getting our greenhouse-gas pollution to 17 percent below 2005 levels will require at least one more big step: carbon-pollution reductions from power plants.
No new laws are required to achieve these reductions. In 2007 the Supreme Court required the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to determine whether greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act as an endangerment to public health. Power plants are the single-largest uncontrolled source of climate pollution, producing one-third of greenhouse-gas pollution in the United States, according to EPA.
In addition to slashing industrial carbon pollution, the president should seize other opportunities to address climate change, including:
- Utilize existing authorities to make government buildings more energy efficient, which would not only reduce pollution but save taxpayers money too.
- Build on the Better Buildings Initiative to link private companies with federal resources to help finance energy-efficiency retrofits.
- Approve the eight pending appliance-efficiency standards that have been stalled for more than a year. Each month of delay costs consumers $200 million in lost energy savings and yields 3 million metric tons of carbon pollution, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.
- Balance out energy production on public lands, which is still heavily skewed toward the private production of fossil fuels burned for electricity, by setting targets for renewable energy.
- Continue to lead the international community to scale up the ambition of the countries already participating in the Montreal Protocol and expand the members to include the world’s biggest emerging economies, including China and India.
- Help communities cope with climate change impacts that are already here by helping them become more resilient to extreme weather. Every $1 invested in community resilience reduces extreme weather damage by $4, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Read the analysis: Moving Forward on Reducing Carbon Pollution by Richard W. Caperton and Daniel J. Weiss
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