Today President Obama took an important step toward meeting the promise of his inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” The headline, of course, is the commitment to take serious action to address the most significant challenge our generation faces – climate change. And, with it, the extreme weather and public health burdens that are already making life harder for vulnerable regions and people nationwide, and that stand to become so much worse as the root cause remains unaddressed.
In his Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut harmful carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs and protecting public health.
Most Americans would be shocked to know that there are no current limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By setting the first standards in history for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States – which produce 2 billion tons of this pollution each year, or about 40% of the nation’s total – the President will help modernize our power system, ensuring that our electricity is reliable, affordable, healthy and clean. And we can do this in a way that can give industry the flexibility it needs to make cost-effective investments in clean energy technologies.
A modern, intelligent, interactive electricity system will help minimize problems that arise from extreme weather events and other disruptions and maximize renewables, efficiency and consumer choice. Since the President took office, our country has seen the beginnings of a revolution in the energy sector – technological innovations have put us on track to energy independence and clean, homegrown energy resources constitute a growing share of electric generation capacity. Reducing wasted energy and using more clean energy offer enormous potential for our health, economy and climate, including:
- Little to no harmful pollution = improved public health
- An unlimited, homegrown energy supply = less reliance on foreign oil
- Economic development = more jobs
- Stable energy prices = lower electric bills and improved economic stability
- A more reliable, resilient energy system = less costly, scary blackouts
- A global leadership position in the multi-trillion dollar clean energy economy = reclaimed pride and competitiveness for America’s manufacturers
President Obama’s speech recognized that America must develop this potential, and his plan charts a clear path forward to accelerate the transition to a clean, low-carbon economy. Thanks to the President, the days of silence and inaction on climate are over. This plan could become an important part of his legacy. We still have a long way to go. Now it’s up to all of us to join with the President in confronting the defining challenge of our time.