and Our Environment
The President has taken unprecedented action to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect our environment.
“Someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safe, more stable world?” - President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
The Obama Administration is taking action to combat climate change. In June 2013, President Obama gave a speech where he outlined the Climate Action Plan — the steps his Administration would take to cut carbon pollution, help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and continue to lead international efforts to address global climate change. For the sake of our children and future generations, we must act now. And we are.
Cutting Carbon Pollution in America
“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.” - President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
The Obama administration is taking important steps to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases in America. Through initiatives that drive energy efficiency, promote clean energy, and put in place the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, we are moving our country forward — toward a clean energy future.
The Path Toward a Clean Energy Economy
Reducing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants
Power plants are the single-largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. In June 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, proposed a common-sense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. EPA’s Clean Power Plan builds on the leadership that states, cities, and businesses across the country have already taken to address the risks of climate change. And the plan itself provides flexibility to states — reflecting the variety of energy sources and opportunities in each state. This proposal will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a common-sense approach to developing carbon pollution standards for power plants. In September 2013, EPA announced proposed standards for new power plants. In developing carbon pollution standards for existing plants, EPA has conducted broad-based outreach and direct engagement with 300 stakeholder groups — state, tribal, and local governments; industry and labor leaders; non-profits; and many others — to gather input and information on how to best build on state efforts to move toward a cleaner power sector.
Accelerating Clean Energy Leadership
The Obama administration has made real progress in developing a wide range of initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through clean energy policies. Since President Obama took office, the U.S. has increased solar electricity generation by more than ten-fold, and tripled electricity production from wind power. Building on the advancements of the first term, we continue to take new and comprehensive action to encourage cleaner forms of American-made energy. Through public-private partnerships, streamlining the federal permitting process, and furthering American leadership in clean energy, we are on track to meet our goals of installing 100 megawatts of renewable capacity across federally subsidized housing by 2020, permitting 10 gigawatts of renewable projects on public lands by 2020, deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025, and doubling wind and solar electricity generation in the United States — once again — by 2025.
Renewables on Public Lands
When President Obama took office in 2009, there were zero solar projects on public lands, and there was no process in place to move forward the hundreds of pending applications from American businesses that wanted to harness renewable energy to help power the U.S. In February 2014, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced permitting for the 50th utility-scale renewable energy project on public lands. Together, these projects can support more than 20,000 U.S. jobs and generate enough electricity to power 4.8 million homes.
Expanding and Modernizing the Electric Grid
Our nation's electric transmission grid is the backbone of our economy, a key factor in future economic growth, and a critical component of our energy security. Expanding and modernizing our grid provides improved access to remote sources of solar and wind energy, reduces power outages, saves consumers money, and speeds the creation of thousands of construction and operations jobs. President Obama has put forth initiatives to help develop principles for establishing energy corridors; encourage the use of designated energy corridors in western states; expedite the review of transmission projects in non-western states; and improve the overall transmission siting, permitting, and review processes. You can read more on the Presidential Memorandum on Transforming our Nation’s Electric Grid.
Staying on the Cutting Edge
While we are taking action to encourage the adoption of cleaner forms of energy, we also recognize that future technologies will be crucial in our transition to a clean energy economy. That is why President Obama created the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2009. This Agency helps to advance high-impact energy projects that have the potential to transform the way we generate, store, and use energy. Every year, the President’s budget continues to invest in the crucial programs that will keep the United States at the forefront of clean energy research, development, and deployment.
Building a 21st Century Clean Energy Infrastructure
The Obama administration has proposed the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history, requiring an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Administration has also finalized the first-ever fuel economy standards for commercial trucks, vans, and buses for model years 2014-2018. These standards are projected to save over 500 million barrels of oil and save vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs. Continuing on this progress, in 2014, the President directed his Administration to develop and issue the next phase of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles. Thanks in part to tighter fuel economy standards, U.S. oil demand has declined. These standards help consumers save money at the pump, lower carbon emissions, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. More broadly, the Administration will continue to support research and leverage partnerships between the private and public sectors to deploy cleaner fuels.
Cutting Energy Waste in Homes, Businesses, and Factories
Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, create American jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The Obama administration has developed several initiatives to further drive energy efficiency, including developing energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment, partnering with rural electric cooperatives to make energy efficiency accessible to rural America, completing home efficiency upgrades to save families hundreds of dollars on their utility bills, and partnering with the private sector to advance energy efficiency over billions of square feet of building space through the President’s Better Buildings Challenge.
Reducing Other Greenhouse Gases
In the United States, emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — a known “super-pollutant” — are expected to nearly triple by 2030, if action is not taken. To reduce emissions of HFCs, the United States is leading through both domestic actions and international diplomacy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using its authority to encourage private-sector investment in low-emissions technology. In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition over time to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives.
Methane — another potent greenhouse gas — makes up nearly 9% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon pollution in 2030, if action is not taken. That is why in March 2014, the Administration released a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions that builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems.
Leading by Example
President Obama has directed the federal government — the largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy — to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from direct sources such as building energy use and fuel consumption by 28 percent by 2020. He also directed federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources, such as those from employee commuting, by 13 percent by 2020. By meeting these goals, federal agencies can save up to $11 billion in energy costs and eliminate the equivalent of cumulative 235 million barrels of oil over the next decade. In 2011, the Administration released the first-ever comprehensive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory for the U.S. Government, allowing agencies to leverage data to gauge the effectiveness of their renewable energy investments and their energy and fuel efficiency efforts.
The U.S. Military
As part of the President's commitment to a strong national defense, the Department of Defense (DOD) is harnessing energy efficiency and new energy technologies to give our troops better energy options on the battlefield, at sea, in the air, and at home. DOD is investing in better aircraft engines, hybrid electric drives for ships, improved power for patrol bases in Afghanistan, and higher building efficiency at facilities worldwide. DOD — the single-largest consumer of energy in the United States — is committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, by 2025. To guide future investments and policy, the Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan, released in March 2012, serves as a roadmap to transform the way the Department uses energy in military operations.
Preparing for the Impacts of Climate Change
“This plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready.” - President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
Climate change is not a distant threat — we are already feeling its impacts across the country. The weather is getting more extreme, as droughts, wildfires, and floods are becoming more frequent and intense. Climate impacts have affected every region across the nation and inflicted large costs on the U.S. economy. That is why states, cities, tribes, and communities across America are taking steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Building a More Climate-Resilient America
Assess the Impacts of Climate Change
The Obama administration continues to lead in advancing the science of climate measurement and adaptation and the development of tools for climate-relevant decision-making — by focusing on increasing the availability, accessibility, and utility of relevant scientific tools and information. In May 2014, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information ever generated about climate-change impacts in America. The NCA finds that climate change is already having a wide range of important impacts across all U.S. regions and key sectors of the national economy. The clear and tailored information presented in the NCA is a critical resource for informing climate preparedness and response decisions across the nation. The NCA can be accessed here.
Support Climate-Resilient Investments
Across America, states, cities, tribes, and communities are taking steps to protect themselves from extreme weather and other climate impacts. As part of his Climate Action Plan, President Obama signed an Executive Order in November 2013 establishing a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The Task Force members include state, local, and tribal leaders from across the country who have first-hand experience building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities. Learn more about the Task Force.
Already federal agencies are responding by incorporating considerations of climate risk into their funding programs. Examples include EPA’s grants for brownfields cleanup and DOT’s latest Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding opportunity.
Rebuild and Learn from Superstorm Sandy
In recent years, the federal government has made great strides in preparing for and responding to natural disasters.
More than ever, it is critical that when we build for the future, we do so in a way that makes communities more resilient to emerging challenges such as rising sea levels, extreme heat, and more frequent and intense storms. This is being put into practice in the Sandy-affected region, where the $50 billion relief package is being used in innovative ways to support rebuilding for the future. Examples include the HUD-sponsored Rebuild by Design competition and the Federal Transit Administration’s new funding for resilience projects designed and built to address current and future vulnerabilities to a public transportation system, including those imposed by climate change. The Task Force and the entire Obama administration has worked tirelessly to ensure that these funds are getting to those who need them most — and quickly.
In August 2013, the Hurricane Sandy Task Force delivered a rebuilding strategy that is serving as a model for communities across the nation recovering from disasters.
Promoting Resilience in the Health Sector
The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an effort to develop a set of resources and tools that will promote hospital resilience in the face of climate change. Through a public-private partnership with the health care industry, it will identify best practices and provide guidance on affordable measures to ensure that our medical system is resilient to climate impacts. It will also collaborate with partner agencies to share best practices among federal health facilities.
Maintain Agriculture Sustainability
Building on the existing network of federal climate-science research and action centers, the Agriculture Department created seven new Regional Climate Hubs to deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability. These hubs are collaborating with universities and other partners to support climate resilience.
Provide Tools for Climate Resilience
In March 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Data Initiative, an ambitious effort bringing together extensive open government data and design competitions with commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. This effort will help give communities across America the information and tools they need to plan for current and future climate impacts. The first phase of the Climate Data Initiative focuses on coastal resilience and will expand to include data related to food resilience and more.
Reduce Risk of Droughts and Wildfires
In November 2013, the Administration launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), an alliance of federal agencies working to help communities better prepare for droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on families and businesses. The NDRP goal is to make it easier to access federal drought resources by linking information — such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings — with longer-term resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, and energy. NDRP leverages the work of existing federal investments such as the National Integrated Drought Information System.
In April 2014, the Administration released the final phase of the National Wildfire Cohesive Strategy, a collaborative strategy for federal, state and local action to better prevent, prepare for, and recover from wildfire. The strategy supports states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders who are working to prepare for a drier future.
Leading International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change
“What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious — because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands. We need an inclusive agreement — because every country has to play its part. And we need an agreement that’s flexible — because different nations have different needs." - President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone. America continues to lead the international community in driving action to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate impacts — and is helping to forge a truly global solution to this global challenge.
Leading Public-Sector Financing Toward Cleaner Energy
In the President’s Climate Action Plan, he announced an initiative to end public financing for new coal-fired power plants overseas, except in rare circumstances. Following the lead of the U.S., other nations — including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries — have joined the initiative, and the World Bank has adopted a similar policy.
Bilateral Cooperation with Major Economies
President Obama has made climate change a key issue in some of our most important bilateral relations, including with China and India. Together, we are making progress around issue areas such as vehicle emissions standards, energy efficiency, and clean energy.
Expanding Clean Energy Use and Cutting Energy Waste
To facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy, the Energy Department is leading the Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum that promotes policies and programs aimed at improving access to energy efficiency and clean energy supply.
Cutting Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
Building on the breakthrough June 2013 agreement on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by President Obama and China’s President Xi, G-20 leaders have expressed support for using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs. The U.S. continues to spearhead the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which has expanded to 88 partners, including 39 countries. The Coalition is implementing 10 initiatives to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs, and black carbon.
The U.S., Norway, and the United Kingdom have launched a public-private partnership to support forests in developing countries. The Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector and promote sustainable agriculture and smarter land use planning and policies.
Promoting Free Trade in Environmental Goods
In January 2014, a U.S.-led coalition of countries — representing 86% of global trade in environmental goods — announced the launch of talks aimed at eliminating tariffs on a wide range of environmental goods under the World Trade Organization.
As countries gear up for an ambitious global climate agreement in 2015, the U.S. is leading the way. The 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report highlighted the progress the U.S. is making toward meeting our 2020 emissions reduction target, largely through steps taken in the President’s Climate Action Plan.
Mobilizing Climate Finance and Promoting Global Climate Resilience
In April 2014, the U.S., U.K., and Germany announced the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, a public-private platform designed to spur private-sector investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure in developing countries. The Lab will bring together senior decision makers in government, private investment, and multilateral financial institutions to help developing countries tackle and adapt to climate change.
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