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 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 United States is leading global efforts to address the threat of climate change. Since 2005, the United States has reduced its total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. Wind power has tripled, and energy from the sun has increased tenfold. President Obama has taken a series of common-sense steps to curb carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases through initiatives that drive energy efficiency, promote clean energy, and put in place the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants.
The Path Toward a Clean Energy Economy
Reducing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants
Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. We have already set limits for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but there is currently no federal rule to prevent power plants from releasing as much carbon pollution as they want. Many states, local governments, and companies have led the way forward toward cleaner electricity sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a common-sense approach to developing carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. In September 2013, EPA announced proposed standards for new power plants and initiated outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders to help inform the development of emission guidelines for existing plants. In June 2014, EPA released the Clean Power Plan — the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants that will protect the health of our children and put our nation on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030. In addition, the Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion per year in 2030 and will cut pollution that leads to soot and smog by over 25 percent in 2030.
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 clean-energy goals: to install 100 megawatts of renewable capacity across federally subsidized housing by 2020, permit 10 gigawatts of renewable projects on public lands by 2020, deploy 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025, and double 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 renewables 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. Since President Obama took office, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has approved over 50 wind, solar, and geothermal utility-scale projects on public or tribal 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. These standards help consumers save money at the pump, lower carbon emissions, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Thanks in part to tighter fuel economy standards, U.S. oil demand has declined. 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
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — a known “super-pollutant” — are factory-made gases used primarily in air conditioning and refrigeration and are among the fastest-growing greenhouse gases in the world. Unless fast action is taken, the emissions of HFCs in the United States are expected to nearly triple by 2030. To reduce emissions of HFCs, the United States is leading through both domestic actions and international diplomacy. Domestically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed two new rules in 2014 under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that would smooth the transition from HFCs to climate-friendly alternatives by expanding the list of acceptable alternatives and limiting use of some of the most harmful HFCs were lower-risk alternatives are available. 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. Internationally, the Administration has been working with foreign governments and other stakeholders — including industry, environmental groups, and foundation partners — to push for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down the production and consumption of HFCs globally.
Methane — another potent greenhouse gas — accounted for nearly 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 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. The Administration is making progress in these sectors, and in January 2015 announced a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Achieving the Administration’s goal would save up to 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2025 — enough to heat more than 2 million homes for a year. The steps announced today are also a sound economic and public health strategy because reducing methane emissions means capturing valuable fuel that is otherwise wasted and reducing other harmful pollutants — a win for public health and the economy.
Leading by Example
In 2009, President Obama set aggressive energy and sustainability goals for the federal government — the largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy — by directing agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as building energy use and fuel consumption by 28 percent by 2020 and increase deployment of renewable energy. Agencies are on track to meet these goals and have already cut greenhouse emissions by more than 17 percent as of 2013, with 9 percent of federal government electricity now from renewable sources. The Administration has also expanded energy performance contracts from $2 billion to $4 billion to provide energy efficiency upgrades for federal buildings, at no net cost to the taxpayer. By meeting the President’s goals, federal agencies can avoid up to $11 billion in energy costs and eliminate the equivalent of 235 million barrels of oil over the next decade.
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, 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 advance 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 and Learn from Local Leaders
The President is committed to supporting communities 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 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. In November 2014, the Task Force, which includes 26 state, local, and tribal leaders from across the country who have first-hand experience building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities, delivered their recommendations to the White House. Learn more about the Task Force.
Make Climate-Resilient Investments
The Task Force emphasized the importance of ensuring that all public investments are made with future conditions in mind, so they last as long as they should. Federal agencies are already responding to this feedback by incorporating considerations of climate risk into their funding programs. Examples include the Environmental Protection Agency’s grants for brownfields cleanup, the Department of Transportation’s latest Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding opportunity, and NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management program.
Additionally, the Administration has worked to incentivize and remove barriers to community resilience. This includes launching competitions to spur innovation where it is needed most — like the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition to help communities working to rebuild smarter and stronger from recent natural disasters. USDA has invested in the reliability and resilience of the nation’s rural electric grid, and the Department of the Interior is supporting tribal preparedness with a $10 million Federal-Tribal Climate Resilience Partnership and Technical Assistance Program.
Rebuild and Learn from Hurricane Sandy
In August 2013, the President’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force delivered a rebuilding strategy that is serving as a model for communities across the nation recovering from disasters. The Administration is committed to ensuring that communities recovering from disaster are rebuilt to be more resilient to future climate challenges such as rising sea levels, extreme heat, and more frequent and intense storms. In the Sandy-affected region, 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.
Promote 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. As part of this initiative, the Administration released a best practices guide for health care providers, design professionals, policymakers, and others to promote resilience and continuity of care before, during, and after extreme weather events. Through a public-private partnership with the health care industry, the Administration will also provide new tools and 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. The Administration continues to advance the availability of health-related tools as part of the Climate Data Initiative to assist local leaders and public health professionals in addressing climate impacts on the populations they serve.
Provide Data and Tools to Support Climate Resilience
The Administration is committed to giving communities across America the information and tools they need to plan for current and future climate impacts, such as flooding and sea-level rise. In March 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Data Initiative, an ambitious effort to make vast federal data resources on climate change risks and impacts openly available and leverage commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. In November 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a website that provides centralized, authoritative, easy-to-use information, tools, and best practices to help communities prepare for and boost their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Building on the existing network of federal climate-science research and action centers, the Department of Agriculture 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. The Department of Transportation has developed science-based tools such as their Climate Data Processing Tool for understanding climate change effects on transportation projects. Building on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sea-level projections, the Army Corps of Engineers has created a Sea-Level Calculator to better plan for sea-level rise on coastal infrastructure investments.
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
The President put forth 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 U.K., the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries — have joined the initiative.
Bilateral Cooperation with Major Economies
We are making progress with key partners on issues areas such as renewable energy deployment, hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, vehicle emissions standards, energy efficiency, and clean energy initiatives. In November, President Obama and President Xi jointly announced each country’s ambitious but achievable post-2020 climate change targets. The historic step to announce our targets early and together demonstrated that the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers, and carbon emitters are reaching across traditional divides and working together to demonstrate leadership on an issue that affects the entire world, as well as energizing the U.N. climate negotiations and encouraging other countries to also put forward ambitious post-2020 climate targets.
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. We are leading efforts in multilateral fora, such as the G-20, APEC, and Summit of the Americas, to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, increase the use of renewables, and improve the efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles.
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. We have continued successful bilateral and multilateral engagement on this issue with China, India, and Saudi Arabia, among others. The U.S. also continues to spearhead the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which has expanded to over 100 partners, including 46 countries. The Coalition is implementing 10 initiatives to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs, and black carbon.
In November 2013, the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. launched a public-private partnership to support forests in developing countries, with the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and promoting sustainable agriculture. The initiative has identified its first four priority countries and begun initial work supported by a current capitalization of over $325 million.
Promoting Free Trade in Environmental Goods
In July 2014, the U.S. and 13 other WTO members, representing 86% of global trade in environmental goods, launched negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) to achieve global free trade in clean technologies.
The United States continues to play an active role in shaping the design of a new global climate agreement due in 2015, including through our chairmanship of the major economies forum on energy and climate.
Mobilizing Climate Finance and Promoting Global Climate Resilience
In November 2014, President Obama announced the United States’ intention to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience in developing countries. The U.S. contribution builds on a bipartisan history of U.S. leadership to support climate action and will leverage public and private finance to avoid some of the most catastrophic risks of climate change. The strong U.S. pledge helped increase the number and ambition of other countries’ contributions and our leadership helped propel initial capitalization of the fund to over $10 billion, a threshold seen by stakeholders as demonstrating serious donor commitment.