Five things you must know about Obama’s climate change plan

US president has announced new curbs on carbon emissions from power plants under the Clean Power Plan that if followed through, could be path breaking.

 |  3-minute read |   05-08-2015
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As the world looks towards striking a much-needed climate deal at the Paris summit this December, the contributions of top polluters like the United States, China and India come under close scrutiny. The United States took a tentative step in this direction by signing a bilateral climate deal with China in December 2014 to restrict carbon emissions and ahead of Paris has announced a target of 26-28 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 compared to 2005 levels.

Now, US President Barack Obama has announced new curbs on carbon emissions from power plants under the Clean Power Plan, a set of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that if followed through, could be path breaking. States have time until September 2016 to submit plans based on targets set for them by the EPA, but must comply by 2022. Here are five things you ought to know about this new plan and what it means for climate change.

1. Does Obama have the authority to put this in place?

Yes he does. Those opposed to it will try and find loopholes but the American president has used the power of the Clean Air Act of 1970 to push this new plan through. Under this, any pollutant that poses a serious health threat can be regulated by the US Environment Protection Agency. The president hence has the legal authority to make a decision on pollutants from power plants that are endangering public health across the country.

2. How will the plan help tackle climate change?

The power plants in the United States are one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions, making up 32 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Power Plan aims to put standards in place that will in the long run help reduce CO2 emissions by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. This is by far the most ambitious step taken by America to tackle climate change. Climate change experts are also hopeful that other big pollutants will be inspired by this and come on board and sign on to achieve big targets in Paris this December.

3. Is it a one-plan-for-all proposition?

No. The president has given each state the flexibility to decide on its energy mix on its own. What this means is that each state can decide on which renewable it wants to invest in and also look at upgrading its coal plants to produce more electricity but with lesser emissions. States have a fair bit of flexibility in deciding what works for them and what does not.

4. In the long run will this mean cheaper or more expensive power for people?

With a smart and ambitious renewables plan in place and a lowered reliance on fossil fuel, electricity bills will also be impacted. While initial electricity costs may escalate, the EPA estimates consumers will save $8 per month in the long run while The White House on its part estimates the average American will save $85 on their utility bill by 2030.

5. Why is the plan being opposed in so many states?

Many states, like Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky, that are heavily reliant on coal mining fear their economies would suffer and people would lose jobs. In fact as many as 14 states have decided to legally challenge this plan as they feel the implications threaten economic security in these states. In addition, Republican presidential hopefuls are also opposing the economics of this plan and feel that it will be disastrous and cost too much to implement.

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Prachi Bhuchar Prachi Bhuchar @prachibhuchar

Traveller, sushi junkie, parent and writer.

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