Obama declared that his administration is poised to unroll greater-than-expected cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants, in what he called "the biggest, most important steps we've ever taken to combat climate change." Obama acknowledged and emphasized that scientific data shows that climate change is real, and it already poses a threat to human and environmental health. "Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said. "Not anymore.”
The cornerstone of the plan is a 32 percent cut in power plants' greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. It also boosts the requirements for renewable energy sources. raising to 28 percent from 22 percent the share of generating capacity that would come from such sources.
State governments also will be given more time to meet their targets and considerably more flexibility in how they achieve their pollution-cutting goals, according to two senior officials knowledgeable about the rule. For the first time, the officials said, the plan also includes a 'reliability safety valve' that can buy states additional time if needed to avoid disruptions in the power supply. States will also be granted more time to meet compliance standards, with the deadline extended to 2022, rather than 2020. In addition, they will have until 2018 to submit their plans, rather than 2017. The final rules are explicitly meant to encourage the use of interstate cap-and-trade systems, in which states place a cap on carbon pollution and then create a market for buying permits or credits to pollute. The idea is that forcing companies to pay to pollute will drive them to cleaner sources of energy.
Daphne Wysham, director the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, told Common Dreams that such cap-and-trade measures "allow polluters to profit and do not create an incentive for rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions." Wysham continued, echoing the warnings of scientists, who say that, to avert a climate catastrophe, the vast majority of fossil fuel deposits around the world must remain unused. "We need to be looking at 1990 greenhouse gas emissions baselines like the rest of the world uses. We need to be rapidly phasing out of coal and gas fired power. We need to stop drilling in the Arctic, which Obama allowed Shell to proceed with."
Karthik Ganapathy, U.S. communications manager for the climate action group 350.org. told Common Dreams. "It doesn't go far enough in terms of moving society off of fossil fuels."
The Clean Power Plan is designed to expedite the retirement of the nation’s coal-fired power plants and has been described as equivalent to taking 70 percent of American cars off the road. As meteorologist Eric Holthaus writes, although the president’s statement may be true, “It’s not saying a whole heck of a lot.”