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New U.S. Clean Energy Plan may spur global action against climate change

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Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Monday, June 2, 2014, 11:44 AM - In the biggest, boldest move on climate change so far for the U.S. Government, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today a new plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by a total of 30 per cent by the year 2030.

This Clean Power Plan is the first of its kind for the United States. While the EPA currently regulates several power plant emissions that are known to affect health and the environment, and there are plans proposed for lower carbon emission for future power plants, this is the first that addresses carbon dioxide for current power plants in existence. 

According to the EPA press release, this plan will, by 2030:

  • Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year; 
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and 
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

One of the parts of this plan that could be its best chance of success is its flexibility. Rather than imposing a specific plan for all states to follow, the EPA is keeping the plan adaptable to each state and even each community, based on their strengths and weaknesses, and even allowing them to design their own plan for how they will meet their goal. The ultimate goal: to have the U.S. use more clean, renewable energy and to make energy usage more efficient, but also to clean up emissions from power plants to reduce not only carbon pollution, but also other forms of pollution that impact upon air quality.

"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the press release. "EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source - power plants. By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment - our action will open America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs."  

An added benefit of this new plan is that it may spur action on a global scale.

While any reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide we are emitting into our atmosphere would be beneficial, as it would put less of a strain on the ecosystem, a common argument used so far to support inaction against climate change has been that any action taken would be useless if the biggest polluters (China, the U.S., the EU and India) weren't all on board. With China's government already making moves towards address carbon pollution, and now the U.S. government taking this bold step, that argument is losing its strength. The European Union, as the world's third largest emitter of CO2 (collectively), has already accepted the reality of what climate science is telling us, and they have already begun taking steps to address it. That's the top three, which should (hopefully) make it easier for the rest of the world to come on board for a new 2015 global agreement

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