President Obama's Climate Action Plan

President Obama's Climate Action Plan outlines a wide array of actions his administration will take using existing authorities to reduce carbon pollution, increase energy efficiency, expand renewable and other low-carbon energy sources, and strengthen resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts.  As part of the plan, annoujnced in June 2013, the president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards by June 2015 to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

C2ES President Eileen Claussen calls Obama's plan "a credible, comprehensive strategy to use the tools at his disposal to strengthen the U.S. response to climate change. His plan recognizes that the costs of climate change are real and rising, and that to minimize them we must both cut our carbon output and strengthen our climate resilience."

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C2ES Resources on Key Topics:

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan focuses on:

Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Congress has granted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate a wide range of pollutants through several laws, including the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Carbon pollution standards for new power plants proposed by EPA in March 2012  have not yet been finalized. On June 25, President Obama announced a Presidential Memorandum directing the  EPA “to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standardsfor both new and existing power plants.”

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Energy Efficiency

The president directed the Department of Energy to build on efficiency standards set during his first term for dishwashers, refrigerators, and other products. He set a goal of cumulatively reducting carbon dioxide emissions by 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency measures adopted in his first and second terms. The president also committed to build on heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards set during his first term with new standards past the 2018 model year.

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Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is the fastest growing energy source. In 2012, renewable energy was responsible for 12.7 percent of net U.S. electricity generation with hydroelectric generation contributing 7.9 percent and wind generation 2.9 percent. In the president’s climate plan, he reiterates his support to make renewable energy production on federal lands a top priority.

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Natural Gas

New drilling technologies such as hydraulic fracturing (sometimes called fracking) have vastly increased the amount of recoverable natural gas in the United States and elsewhere. These advances are projected to keep the price of this lower-carbon fuel near historically low levels, significantly altering energy economics and trends, and opening new opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To better leverage natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the administration will develop an interagency methane strategy to further reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas.

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Leading by Example

In his first term, President Obama set a goal to reduce federal greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent by 2020. He also required agencies to enter into at least $2 billion in performance-based contracts by the end of 2013 to finance energy projects with no upfront costs. In his climate plan, the president established a new goal for the federal government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020—more than double its current goal of 7.5 percent.

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Climate Resilience

The president wants federal agencies to support local investments in climate resilience and convene a task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the federal government can take to help strengthen communities. President Obama also wants to use recovery strategies from Hurricane Sandy to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts and update flood-risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects.

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International Climate Change Leadership

The president promised to expand new and existing international initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries. He also called for an end to U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired powers plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world's poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

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