The Obama administration unveiled a bold new scheme to reduce carbon emissions from American power plants by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. The policy that was rolled out by the Environmental Protection Agency contains a number of  mechanisms by which the USA can achieve this goal–but in practice this is a war on coal fired power plants.

Compared to the global scale of the problem, the 30% target is probably not bold enough. But it is still the most impressive climate change proposal ever for the United States.

The USA is responsible for about 17% of emissions (making it the second biggest emitter  after China, which is responsible for 26% of global emissions.)  Currently, power plants make up about one third of Americas’s green house gas emissions.  Cutting those emissions by 30%  would clearly make a dent in the global fight against the catastrophic effects of climate change.

But it is also no where near as big a dent as we need. It’s generally agreed that global emissions need to be cut by at least 80% by 2o50 in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.  That can only happen through concerted international cooperation–which is why there is so much at stake with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Still, this policy is a step in the right direction –and its being welcome around the world. It’s symbolically important, too. Particularly in the run up to the next round of international climate change negotiations in 2015.

Here’s the top UN climate official Christina Figueres

“News that the United States will unveil a significant strategy on Monday (2 June 2014) to combat climate change is a welcome development in 2014—the Year of Ambition”.

“The decision by President Obama to launch plans to more tightly regulate emissions from power plants will send  a good signal to nations everywhere that one of the world’s biggest emitters is taking the future of the planet and its people seriously”.

“It is also a good signal for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September and towards securing a new  and more importantly meaningful climate agreement by the UN convention meeting in Paris in late 2015”.

“I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action—action that can set the stage  and put in place the pathways that can bend the global emissions curve down in order to keep world-wide  temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius this century”.

 

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