Obama Rolls Out Ambitious Climate Action Plan

Obama Rolls Out Ambitious Climate Action Plan

Geoffrey Giller
Published: 06/26/2013

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled his plans for combating climate change in a speech at Georgetown University. The highly-anticipated plan seeks to fulfill promises that Obama made in his second inaugural address.

The remarkably readable 21-page plan (pdf) outlines specific actions that won’t require the approval of Congress. There are three major parts: cutting American carbon emissions, preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to reduce carbon emissions globally (scroll down for a breakdown of each category). Specifically, the plan emphasizes Obama’s commitment to his pledge to reduce U.S. carbon emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Reaching that goal will require the EPA to regulate emissions from new and existing power plants—something the administration has been working toward since last year. Predictably, the plan also calls for expanded use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Obama did surprise environmentalists when he broached the topic of Keystone XL, the much-debated pipeline that, if constructed, would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Though the pipeline isn’t mentioned in the text of the plan itself, Obama told the Georgetown crowd that “the net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.” But his lack of specifics regarding the pipeline has left those on both sides of the debate trying to decipher his intentions. While some environmental organizations are cautiously optimistic that it signals the project won’t be approved, pipeline proponents are also claiming that Obama’s words could bode well for them.

Also unexpected was his mention of divestment, which got an especially loud cheer from the university crowd. Recently, college students across the country have gained attention for their efforts to convince schools to divest from fossil fuels, though questions remain about how much the move will actually hurt Big Oil. After urging the students to take action on climate change by speaking up in their communities and pushing back on misinformation, Obama said: “Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices.  Invest.  Divest.” What he meant, says Climate Progress editor Joe Romm, is “Invest in clean energy, divest from dirty energy.”

While Republicans, who do not have a climate plan of their own, denounced the plan (House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed Obama was “harming innovation, and it is going to be a direct assault on jobs,” The Hill reports), praise poured in from most environmental corners. Al Gore called it “the best address on climate by any president ever.” The League of Conservation Voters, in a statement, said the plan was “by far the most comprehensive and ambitious administrative plan proposed by any president.” And David Yarnold, the National Audubon Society president and CEO, said in a statement that it is “high time for bold action on climate pollution… Whether you're talking about birds, wildlife or people, this is the most significant threat we all face.

Below is the text from the fact sheet released by the White House. The White House also created an infographic that illustrates the current climate situation as well as the major parts of Obama’s plan.


President Obama's Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution
Taking Action for Our Kids

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