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Obama climate plan to limit emissions at plants

Obama will make up to $8 billion available in loan guarantees for energy efficiency and clean innovation for fossil fuel technology.
Obama will make up to $8 billion available in loan guarantees for energy efficiency and clean innovation for fossil fuel technology.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

President Obama will release a broad climate plan later today that will include the first federal carbon emission limits on existing power plants, expanded wind and solar on federally-owned lands and a renewed international focus to jointly reduce emissions with high-emitting countries such as India and China.

The plan, to be announced at Georgetown University, does not give a timetable for the power plant rules, which Republicans say will make the US less competitive, but directs the US Environmental Protection Agency to work with states, industry and others to develop them.

Obama will make up to $8 billion available in loan guarantees for energy efficiency and clean innovation for fossil fuel technology; create enough wind and solar on public lands by 2020 to power more than six million homes; and reduce carbon pollution by at least three billion tons by 2030 through appliance and federal building efficiency standards.

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Carbon dioxide pollution is increasing globally, and is now at 400 parts per million; many climate scientists say levels need to go no higher than 350 parts per million to avoid severe climate impacts of rising temperatures, seas and more severe weather. Obama early on attempted to take a leading role in global warming but international efforts to develop a meaningful climate treaty failed in his first term and was soon eclipsed by the failing US economy.

Power plant emissions comprise the largest stationary source of carbon dioxide emissions in the US, although vehicles also release the heat-trapping gas.

New England has moved away from coal-fired electricity in recent years as domestic natural gas has become cheaper, although new rules are likely to hit Brayton Point in Somerset, the region’s largest coal-fired power plant.

Other initiatives in the president’s speech will include a renewed emphasis on adapting to climate change, including support for climate-resilient investment.

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Internationally, the plan calls for major emitting countries to work with the US on global warming. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting India Sunday, urged such cooperation. The plan also calls for the end of US financing of new coal-fired power plants.

Business and environmental groups early today said they supported the plan.

“The President’s plan to address climate change makes total sense. It is clear that the Administration has done the math,” said Eastern Bank president Robert F. Rivers.

Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Cambridge-based Union of Concerned Scientists said “President Obama has a little more than three years to cement a lasting legacy on climate change, and he’ll need every last second.”