Climate Change Energy Policy

Key Takeaways From Obama’s U.N. Climate Change Plan


Yesterday morning, the U.S. submitted its proposal to the United Nations detailing its plan to fight climate change, which will be formally discussed later this year at the U.N. to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The U.S. is Taking Action on Climate Change

Headlining the plan, the U.S. formally proposed that it would cut its emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which sends a powerful message to the world. This target was first announced in November when President Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the leaders of the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases jointly announced their plans to combat climate change. Yesterday, the U.S. followed through on that joint announcement by officially submitting their target and plan to achieve it.

This announcement is part of the U.N.’s international effort to secure a new global initiative to combat climate change later this year in Paris.

The World is Taking Action on Climate Change

climatepieWith yesterday’s submission of the U.S. target, countries accounting for 58% of total carbon pollution from the energy sector have submitted what they will do in the post-2020 period to combat climate change. This is key because solving climate change truly requires a global solution in which all nations are working in collaboration.

Mexico is the first developing country to make its climate action pledge ahead of U.N. negotiations, and experts say its plan is actually pretty ambitious: it will cut back its carbon emissions in half by 2030. Further, the European Union plans to cut greenhouse gases 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels. And of course, Costa Rica made news when it burned no fossil fuel in the first 75 days of 2015.

Steps the U.S. is Taking

Following the submission of the plan, National Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh stated:

“We are confident that the U.S. commitment can be met – and even exceeded. Doing so, though, will require several critical steps: setting a stronger carbon pollution standard through President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, enacting other greenhouse gas reductions, limiting methane leaks from production processes and investing in clean transportation instead of letting big oil plunder our precious oceans and landscapes. Taken together, these steps will help combat the gravest environmental threat of our time.”

The formal submission to the U.N. lays out several of the policies the U.S. is already using to achieve this goal, as well as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single biggest source of U.S. emissions. Largely due to the Clean Power Plan, we have seen significant progress in cutting carbon emissions, especially with the expansion of renewable energy. Over the last eight years, we’ve cut more carbon pollution than any other country while at the same time the economy has experienced growth. The White House believes, when fully implemented the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks annually.

President Obama has repeatedly said clean energy is the key to climate action. Also over the past eight years, we have tripled the amount of energy we get from wind, and it has become more affordable. Still wind only makes up 4.5% of the U.S. total energy. A new study from the Department of Energy found that getting a mere 35% of America’s electricity from wind means cheaper energy, 600,000 new jobs, 21,700 avoided premature deaths from air pollution, and 23% less water consumption. This would come as a result of less than 1.5% of U.S. land area being affected.

The Time to Act is Now

The warning signs have grown more alarming. 2014 was the hottest year on record and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have come in this century. Combating climate change requires a global solution, and the U.S. is setting an example by building a lower-carbon economy. We must continue to make progress, especially through the use of renewable energy, as the world looks towards forging a global agreement on climate change in Paris.

Want to fight climate change at home? Choose clean energy at home in just 5 minutes.