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In June 2014, a draft plan was released stating how carbon emissions from power plants would be governed. Yesterday, the EPA issued the final Clean Power Plan— the largest component of Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the centerpiece of the US’s intended targets for the Paris climate talks.

The plan calls for emissions to be cut 32 percent from 2005 by 2030; but states have until 2022 to start meeting emission-reduction requirements. To compensate for the later implementation date from the 2014 draft, the plan includes an energy incentive program to give credits for electricity generated from renewables in 2020 and 2021. This energy incentive program would also prevent many coal-fired plants from just being replaced with natural gas to meet the requirements— natural gas emits only half of the carbon emissions from coal when burned, but if leaked before burned its heat-trapping abilities would be 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Replacing coal with natural gas would not be a long-term solution.

Some of the plan’s weaknesses, however, are that states are required to cut the amount of carbon emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity produced, but not total carbon. If electricity demand goes up unexpectedly, emissions cuts would be lower. Moreover, this plan by itself would only cut total U.S. emissions 6 percent between 2013 and 2030. However, weaknesses aside, this is the strongest action any US president has ever taken against climate change, and that gives enough reason to celebrate.


Adler, B. (2015, August 3). Obama’s big climate plan is now final — and it’s even stronger than expected. Grist. Retrieved from http://grist.org/climate-energy/obamas-big-climate-plan-is-now-final-and-its-even-stronger-than-expected/?utm_source=syndication&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feed

Moskowitz, P. (2015, June 24). New report estimates enough natural gas is leaking to negate climate benefits. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/24/natural-gas-leaks-methane-environment

Photo from Georgetown Public Policy Review