obama climate action

By Alyssa Friedlander

On June 25, 2013, President Obama unveiled his Administration’s Climate Action Plan during a speech at Georgetown University.  This plan, which consists of a wide variety of executive actions, has three pillars: 1) Cut carbon pollution in America, 2) prepare the US for the impacts of climate change, and 3) lead international efforts to address global climate change. Introducing large-scale clean energy consumption is of course not easy and requires the active participation and support of numerous players within the U.S. and abroad.  A key theme throughout the Plan involves establishing and leveraging partnerships across federal agencies, state governments, and the international community.

Building upon successes already achieved by federal agencies to combat climate change and promote renewable energy, this plan aims to further expand the footprint of federal actions by promoting interagency collaboration.  Federal agencies have already made significant accomplishments such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions over 15% and have committed about $2 billion from over 300 reported projects in support of energy efficiency.  Throughout various initiatives identified in pillar one -- cutting carbon pollution -- the Plan commends those actions already taken by agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and identifies specific opportunities for partnerships.  For example, the Plan cites under “develop and deploy advanced transportation technologies” that the DOT will work with other agencies to explore strategies for integrating alternative fuel vessels into the U.S. fleet.

The Plan also states that the federal government should play a role in collaborating with and supporting state, local and tribal governments in addressing climate change.  Many states, such as California, have shown leadership in going beyond federal goals and even developing innovative initiatives were federal policy does not yet exist.  To date, more than 35 states have renewable energy targets in place, and more than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.  To support alignment across efforts, the first pillar of the Plan also identifies actions where federal agencies can collaborate and support state governments to leverage each other’s expertise and resources.  For example, President Obama has issued a Presidential Memorandum to direct the EPA to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants in collaboration with state governments.

The third pillar of the Plan specifically focuses on the development of international partnerships and identifies 10 key points for working with China, India, and other major emitting countries to take action to address climate change.  The Plan states, “just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone.  That is why it is imperative for the United States to couple action at home with leadership internationally.”  For example, through the U.S.-Asia Comprehensive Energy Partnership, the U.S. plans to provide six billion dollars in credits and financing to support the development of clean energy in Asia.

Implementing a successful and large-scale clean energy infrastructure is, needless to say, complex, but to date, there have been many significant achievements made by our federal agencies and state governments to combat climate change and promote renewable energy. The Administration’s Climate Action Plan aims to build upon those successes by further identifying strategic partnerships to support continued advancements in the clean energy economy.