24 October 2016
The new plan will seek to slash carbon emissions from the power sector by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. Photo: Bloomberg
The new plan will seek to slash carbon emissions from the power sector by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. Photo: Bloomberg

Obama to unveil tougher climate change plan

United States President Barack Obama will unveil on Monday the final version of his plan to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants.

The revised Clean Power Plan will seek to slash carbon emissions from the power sector by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, a 9 percent increase over a previous proposal, Reuters reported, citing a White House fact sheet released on Sunday.

Obama called the new regulation “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change”.

It is aimed at ushering in a sweeping transformation of the US electricity sector, encouraging an aggressive shift toward more renewable energy away from coal-fired electricity.

Industry groups and some lawmakers from states that have relied on coal-based energy have vowed to challenge it in the courts and through Congressional maneuvers, accusing the administration of a regulatory assault that will drive up energy prices, the news agency said.

Obama said there have been no federal limits to date on carbon pollution from power plants, the biggest source of US greenhouse gas emissions.

If the plan is implemented, coal’s share of electric generation in the US will fall to 27 percent by 2030, slightly less than the original proposal which estimated it would account for 30 percent, Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy told reporters on Sunday.

Coal accounted for 39 percent of electricity in 2014, according to the Department of Energy.

Natural gas’ 30 percent share of US electricity generation would remain largely the same in 2030 while renewable energy would account for 28 percent, up from the 22 percent initially envisioned in the proposed rule.

The final rule avoids what the White House called an “early rush to gas” away from coal and encouraged earlier adoption by states of renewable power.

The plan will be central to the US contribution to a United Nations agreement to tackle climate change. The Obama administration has vowed to play a leadership role in global climate talks in Paris later this year.

Brian Deese, a senior climate change advisor to Obama, told reporters the tougher climate rule will “enhance” the ability of the US to meet the target it pledged ahead of the Paris talks to slash greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 by putting the country on a “deeper decarbonization” pathway from 2020.

Each state will be required to submit a plan to the EPA next year, spelling out how it will meet an emission-cutting goal assigned to it.

The EPA’s McCarthy said the revised rule will change the targets that were assigned to each state next year that resulted in disparities between each state’s target being narrower, she said.

For example, Washington state had to reduce the carbon intensity of its electricity by 72 percent while Kentucky’s target was 18 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called on governors to ignore the rule. So far, five governors said they will not comply and more than a dozen states have signaled they will sue the agency.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Sunday the rule “will throw countless people out of work, and increases everyone’s energy prices”.

Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who is trying to use the climate issue as a wedge against Republican candidates with her own Clean Energy Challenge to boost the use of renewable power sources such as solar energy, praised Obama’s plan and said “I’d defend it”.

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