Major U.S. Climate Change News: EPA to Cap Carbon Emissions from Power Plants

There is very big news in U.S. climate leadership today, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to announce new pollution regulations for U.S. power plants that could cut carbon emissions by 25% by 2020 and 30% by 2030.  Power plants are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States — amounting to about 40% of total emissions — and this action today helps keep America’s promise to reduce emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020, a promise President Obama made at the Copenhagen Conference of Parties (COP) summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in 2009.  Carbon pollution from U.S. power plants is currently unregulated and today’s announcement marks the end of a year-long open and transparent consultation between the EPA, industry, and state and local government, following the actions of a dozen states and more than a thousand mayors who are already setting clear rules and better standards for our nation’s power plants.

Christiana Figueres,  Executive Secretary of the UNFCC, praised the move, saying “I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action.” The others Figueres are talking about aren’t only climate leaders like the United Kingdom, but major non-OECD emitters like China and India. The new regulations in the U.S. could encourage them to come up with their own aggressive steps to reduce emissions of gases that cause global warming.  Right now, the nations of the world are hard at work devising nation plans to reduce carbon emissions, and this announcement today could spur them to be more ambitious in their carbon cutting goals. Those plans will be announced early next year, and will form the basis of the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which will be negotiated at the Paris COP in late 2015.

What does all that mean? Simply, by taking aggressive action now and leading by example, the United States encourages all the other major contributors to make their own significant emission cuts. That builds momentum heading into Paris for a global deal that will halt and reverse emissions of the gases that cause global warming and prevent the 2 degree increase in global temperatures that scientists warn will cause catastrophic climate change.

More from the President below, speaking Saturday at the Children’s National Medical Center, where he met with children suffering from air pollution-induced asthma and talked about how the EPA announcement builds on the Climate Action Plan, complements new efficiency regulations for cars and trucks, and responds to the recent National Climate Assessment.