On June 25, 2013, in a speech at Georgetown University, President Obama unveiled his plan for dealing with climate change. The President’s Climate Action Plan (Plan) is available on the White House website, along with graphics to illustrate key points. www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan. A video of the speech is also posted on the website.
In the speech, the President recalled that he has urged Congress to forge a “bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” and he expressed willingness to work with members of Congress. “But,” he said, “this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now.” As such, the Plan emphasizes actions that can be taken by the Executive Branch without need for additional legislation. The Plan includes a variety of executive actions, presented in three broad categories or “pillars”: (1) Cut Carbon Pollution in America; (2) Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change; and (3) Lead International Efforts to Combat Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts.
Cut Carbon Pollution in America. In 2009, the President made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, setting a goal that, by 2020, emissions will be reduced by 17 percent below 2005 levels. The Plan notes progress that has been made toward this goal by doubling electric power generation from renewable resources and by adopting new fuel economy standards for motor vehicles. The Administration says it will take the steps outlined in this part of the Plan “in partnership with states, local communities, and the private sector.” Tribes are not expressly mentioned in this “partnership,” although tribes are mentioned at a few points (notably in the section on preparing for climate change) and there are several other points that could be read to implicitly include tribes. Tribes may need to proactively seek inclusion in particular parts of the Plan.
This pillar of the Plan includes five main headings: (1) Deploying Clean Energy; (2) Building a 21st Century Transportation Sector; (3) Cutting Energy Waste in Homes, Businesses, and Factories; (4) Reducing Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions; and (5) Leading at the Federal Level. Under the heading “Deploying Clean Energy,” the key action is for the Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulations to limit carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants. This heading also includes steps to accelerate permitting of renewable energy projects on federal lands and to upgrade the electric power grid and streamline the review process for transmission projects.
Under the heading “Building a 21st Century Transportation Sector,” the Administration will support research and development of next-generation biofuels and will leverage public-private partnership to deploy new transportation technologies. The
Plan also says the Administration will work with “states, cities and towns … to improve transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.”
Under the heading “Cutting Energy Waste in Homes, Businesses, and Factories,” the Plan says that the Rural Utilities Service in the Department of Agriculture will update its Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program for rural utilities to finance investments by businesses and homeowners. The Federal Housing Administration will hold a mortgage roundtable to identify options for incorporating energy efficiency into mortgages for both new and existing homes. The Administration is also launching an initiative called “Better Buildings Accelerators” to support “State and local policies to cut energy waste.” Under the heading “Leading at the Federal Level,” the Plan says that federal agencies will work together to “synchronize building codes … to improve the efficiency of federally owned and supported building stock.”
Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. This pillar includes three main headings: (1) Building Stronger and Safer Communities and Infrastructure; (2) Protecting our Economy and Natural Resources; and (3) Using Sound Science to Manage Climate Impacts. Under the heading “Building Stronger and Safer Communities and Infrastructure,” the Plan says that the President will establish a task force of ‘state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the federal government can take to better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts.” In addition, the Administration commits to “continue to assist tribal communities on preparedness through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including through pilot projects and by supporting participation in federal initiatives that assess climate change vulnerabilities and develop regional solutions.” Under the heading “Protecting our Economy and Natural Resources,” the Plan notes ongoing efforts, with “tribes, states, and local governments as partners, “to make landscapes more resistant to wildfires.”
Lead International Efforts to Combat Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts. This pillar of the Plan includes two main headings: (1) Working with Other Countries to Take Action to Address Climate Change; and (2) Leading Efforts to Address Climate Change through International Negotiations. This part of the plan lists a number of actions which the Administration is taking in the international arena to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop resilience to climate change impacts. Tucked away in this part is the President’s call to eliminate tax subsidies for fossil fuels.
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