“We can innovate our way to a better future” proclaimed EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy on Monday: calling on Americans to tackle climate change. She issued this challenge while announcing a historic new proposal from the Obama Administration to reduce CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power-plants 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. This is huge — for context, 30% is the equivalent of the emissions produced from powering more than half of US homes for a year. This is a bold move for an administration that has been unable to get any meaningful climate legislation through a deadlocked Congress for the last 6 years.
While these standards are expected to significantly reduce America’s CO2 emissions across the board, individual states will have specific goals. To help meet these goals, states will have the flexibility to design individual strategies: from increasing use of renewables to potentially joining regional cap-and-trade programs like RGGI. We’ve already seen states across the country take the initiative on climate change from California to the Northeast. These new emission standards will encourage more states to develop solutions that will provide the most environmental, economic and health benefits for their citizens.
This announcement is being called the strongest action a president has ever taken on the climate. So why is it such a big deal? Coal-fired power plants generate about 40% of total American emissions and while President Obama and the EPA have set limits on CO2 from new power plants being built, this is the first time that regulations will address the existing plants that are the greatest contributor of CO2 emissions. Not only will these standards help fight climate change, they will also come with a host of financial and health benefits. The administration predicts the proposal will result in $90 billion in savings. Not only that, it is expected to help cut up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks annually.
ACE has already written about the negative effects of a society powered by coal. Not only are we contributing to a climate that will lead to more floods, droughts and storms, we are poisoning the air our children breathe. President Obama is aware of the dangers posed by coal to young people, stating:
“we don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children… As a president, and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond saving.”
The majority of the American public agrees with the President. 64% of Americans polled said they support stricter carbon limits on existing coal plants. However, we can count on both the coal lobby and its allies in Congress to fight tooth and nail to prevent these standards from taking effect. Regardless, this is a huge step forward and it shows that raising our voice for cleaner, healthier communities and a better future can affect change. Now we need to keep the pressure on our leaders to follow this example and keep fighting for progress. You can start today by telling the EPA you support these new standards.