Setting the Pace
We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and the last generation to be able to do something about it.
The Clean Power Plan accomplishes four principal goals:
- It will achieve significant cuts the US carbon emissions. The plan forces states to submit their own emissions-cutting plans for the 2030 target by 2022.
- It will accelerate the shift to renewable energy. The CPP is designed to strengthen the fast‐growing trend toward cleaner and lower‐polluting American energy.
- It’s an effective diplomatic tool placing the United States in a strong position for the December Paris climate talks. The US is moving forward on climate change. This is the kind of leadership the world needs.
- It isolates countries like Canada and Australia both formerly known for their strong environmental leadership globally. But that was in the past. Now both countries are focusing on the development of their carbon-heavy economy. Prime Ministers Stephen Harper (Canada) and Tony Abbott (Australia) have been laggards and obstructionists at various international meetings even to the point of blocking progress on climate talks. The recent G7 meeting in Germany is a case in point. Angela Merkel was forced to dilute her intended message of ending the use of fossil fuels by 2050. Canada would only agree to the year 2100 – an 85-year pledge to get off fossil fuels, which is the same as no plan at all.
But is it Enough?
In her interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, commends Obama for the Clean Power Plan but goes on to say that it’s not enough. There needs to be not only a yes to renewable energy but also an outright no to fossil fuel exploration and development, especially in the Arctic says Klein.
Naomi Klein: Obama Is Beginning to Sound Like a Climate Leader, When Will He Act Like One?
Published on Aug 4, 2015
Standard YouTube License
Following are transcript from the video.
So I think that what we’re seeing from Obama is a really good example of what a climate leader sounds like……everything he’s saying is absolutely true about the level of threat, about the fact that this is not a threat for future generations, it is a threat unfolding right now around the world, including in the United States….So he’s doing a very good job of showing us what a climate leader sounds like. But I’m afraid we’ve got a long way to go before we see what a climate leader acts like, because there is a huge gap between what Obama is saying about this threat, about it being the greatest threat of our time…..but the measures that have been unveiled are simply inadequate.
When you talk about emission reductions, we don’t look at just one sector, just at electricity generation; you have to look at the economy as a whole. And what climate scientists are telling us is that relatively wealthy countries, like the United States….would need to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year (numbers from the Tyndall Centre on Climate Research in Manchester). His plan would lower emissions in the United States by around 6 percent overall……not just…the power sector, but overall emissions by 6 percent by 2030. So compare what we should be doing—8 to 10 percent a year—with 6 percent by 2030. That’s the carbon gap, and it’s huge.
The problem is not that this plan itself is bad. If this was announced in Obama’s first year in office, I would be the first to celebrate this and say, “OK, great. So now let’s bring on a carbon tax. Let’s prevent leasing of new oil and gas and coal on public lands….Let’s have huge investments in public transit, and we’ll really be on our way.” But at the end of his two terms in office…. this does not buy a climate legacy. It’s not enough, because it isn’t in line with science, and it also isn’t in line with technology….So, if the scientists are telling us we need to do it, and the engineers are telling us we can do it, then all that’s missing are the politicians willing to introduce the bold policies that will make it happen. And that’s what we’re missing still.
It’s a step in the right direction. But simultaneously, he’s taking some significant steps in the wrong direction with Arctic drilling…….he’s overseen an explosion of fracking for gas. He’s still waffling on the Keystone XL pipeline…..he’s opened up new offshore oil and gas leases. So, you know, when you take one step in the right direction and five steps in the wrong direction, you’re going in the wrong direction.
In Defense of Obama
Rolling Stone defends Obama’s record on the environment pointing out “that the only way forward has been through executive action based on existing legislation, which is a poor substitute for the new laws we need….what Obama has done is far from trivial.”
Internationally Obama has also demonstrated strong climate leadership. In November 2014, China and the US signed a historic agreement to jointly curb carbon emissions, setting the pace for Paris 2015, which Michael Mann has called “probably our last-ditch opportunity to stave off dangerous human interference with the climate.”
The landmark deal has created momemtum with countries like Mexico and India making public their respective intentions to join the global effort to reduce emissions. Mexico was the first developing country to submit its national emissions-reduction targets to the United Nations.
Although he has been able to move the climate action needle forward, time is running out on Barack Obama to become the undisputed world climate leader. He only has about 15 percent of his eight-year presidency left. Yes he was the first President to say “Climate Change is a fact,” but he may also be remembered as the last President who could have done something about it but failed to do so. __________________________________________________________
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a blogger and a Climate Activist. Rolly has been published widely – Toronto Star, The Hill Times, Kingston Whig, the PEN, UnpublishedOttawa, Climate Change Guide, World Daily, Examiner, The Canadian, 350Ottawa, ClimateMama, MyEarth360, GreenDivas, The Elephant, Countercurrents, County Weekly News.