This blog was written by Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC and was originally published on June 2 via NRDC’s blog Switchboard.
The Obama Administration announced a major breakthrough today that will safeguard our health and protect future generations from unchecked climate change. For the first time, the United States will set a national limit on how much carbon pollution can be released from existing power plants.
This is the single most important thing our nation can do right now to fight climate change.
Power plants kick out 40 percent of all carbon pollution in this country. The U.S. limits mercury, arsenic, and soot from power plants. Yet, astonishingly, there are no national limits on how much carbon pollution these plants can dump into our atmosphere.
That’s not right, and the Environmental Protection Agency is doing something about it. Honoring its obligation under the Clean Air Act to safeguard Americans from dangerous pollution, the agency proposed draft carbon limits today.
The EPA’s initial proposal calls for reducing carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The agency has laid out a solid blueprint for how to achieve these reductions. Most important, the blueprint invites greater reductions, and NRDC will be encouraging the EPA to set the strongest limits possible when the agency issues the final carbon standards in 2015.
Most Americans are ready for strong climate action. The public supports government steps to limit carbon pollution by a 2-1 margin, according to an April survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Support holds steady in purple states. A recent Harstad poll found that 67 percent overall and 53 percent of Republicans in the nine closest Senate races favor the EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
Americans welcome carbon limits because they want to protect their families from harm. I just returned from California, where every single county in the state is in the grip of drought, farmers talk of high food prices, and residents brace for a destructive fire season. Climate change is already exacting a heavy toll on our communities—whether it is drought in California and Texas or more smog and respiratory illnesses in New England or devastating floods in the Midwest. People want to turn this trend around, not watch it get worse.
They also have faith in America’s ability to solve tough problems. The U.S. has a proud history of cleaning up our air through technological innovation. We did it with leaded gas, acid rain and countless other pollutants, and we can do it with carbon pollution too.
Indeed, we already are. Wind power has cut carbon pollution by 10 percent or more in 13 states, from Colorado to Nebraska to Vermont. More solar generating capacity was built last year than any other form of electricity except for natural gas. And a set of updated efficiency standards for refrigerators, dishwashers and other products will save consumers nearly $80 billion on energy bills and reduce carbon pollution equivalent to emissions from 25 coal-fired power plants by 2035. Thanks to this dramatic growth, hundreds of thousands of Americans now work in the clean energy sector.
And yet big polluters and their allies in Congress are already attacking carbon limits and claiming America can’t generate energy without fouling our air and destabilizing our climate.
I know that’s not true. Our nation has the ingenuity to confront the climate crisis, and we are already on our way. But we must not let oil, gas, and coal companies stand in the way of progress. Click here to tell the EPA you support strong carbon limits that will move us closer toward the clean energy future. We owe it to our children — and our children’s children — to tackle climate change now.