By Beth Daley
President Obama will release a broad climate plan later today that will include the first federal carbon emission limits on existing power plants, expanded wind and solar energy production on federally-owned lands and a renewed international focus to jointly reduce emissions with high-emitting countries such as India and China.
The plan, to be announced at Georgetown University, does not give a timetable for the power plant rules, which Republicans say will make the United States less competitive, but directs the US Environmental Protection Agency to work with states, industry and others to develop them. The administration’s actions will not require approval of Congress, which blocked previous efforts to pass legislation aimed at slowing global warming. However, it is likely to face lawsuits and political opposition.
Obama will make up to $8 billion available in loan guarantees to encourage energy efficiency and innovation for cleaner fossil fuel technology; create enough wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; and reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion tons by 2030 through setting appliance and federal building efficiency standards.
Carbon dioxide pollution is increasing globally, and is now at 400 parts per million; many climate scientists say levels should be no higher than 350 parts per million to avoid severe impacts of rising temperatures and seas and more severe weather. Obama early on attempted to take a leading role in global warming but international efforts to develop a meaningful climate treaty failed in his first term and were soon eclipsed by the faltering economy.
Power plant emissions comprise the largest stationary source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States although vehicles and industry also release the heat-trapping gas.
New England has moved away from coal-fired electricity in recent years as domestic natural gas has become cheaper, although new rules could hit Brayton Point in Somerset, the region’s largest coal-fired power plant.
Other initiatives in the president’s speech will include a renewed emphasis on adapting to climate change, including support for climate-resilient investment.
Internationally, the plan calls for major emitting countries to work with the United States on global warming. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting India Sunday, urged such cooperation. The plan also calls for the end of US financing of new coal-fired power plants.
Business and environmental groups early today said they supported the plan.
“The President’s plan to address climate change makes total sense. It is clear that the Administration has done the math,” said Robert F. Rivers, President of Eastern Bank,
Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Cambridge-based Union of Concerned Scientists said “President Obama has a little more than three years to cement a lasting legacy on climate change, and he’ll need every last second.”
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