The White House will announce new targets for cutting coal-fired power plant pollution Monday. U.S. President Barack Obama called it “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change,” in a video released by the White House Sunday.
It’s part of an Obama administration strategy to coordinate with other major polluting nations like China and Brazil, to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. According to White House officials, the new cuts aim to reduce power sector carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
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The announcement comes nine months after a historic announcement by Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on emissions cuts. At the time, Washington pledged to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Beijing promised to allow its greenhouse emissions to peak in 2030 and increase non-fossil fuel use to 20 percent by that same year. In June of this year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced her country would pursue policies to eliminate illegal deforestation and reforest 12 million hectares of forests by 2030.
Washington’s plan provides “a strong foundation to reach our international” goals, said Gina McCarthy, head of the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency.
Brazil, China and the United States are all in the top 10 of top international polluters according to the World Resources Institute which tracks these figures. All three are attempting to build momentum ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris in December which will seek to establish a global binding agreement to counter the effects of a warming planet.
Coal-fired power plants produce nearly 40 percent of U.S. electricity, which explains why they are the target of the so-called “Clean Power Plan” being unveiled by the White House. The power production industry has expressed concern over the timeline and tools available to them to comply with the new requirements.
“Our primary concern remains the overall timing and stringency of the near-term reduction targets,” said Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn in a statement.
U.S. states must submit their plans to the federal government by September 2016. Compliance isn’t mandated until 2022, according to a White House fact sheet. That’s an extension of two years from a previous draft proposal unveiled last spring.
White House officials say states will have the flexibility to meet the targets through carbon trading inside and outside their borders as well as energy-efficiency measures. New nuclear power plants will also count towards meeting the reduction goal.
Nevertheless, some industry groups and lawmakers have pledged to challenge the plan in court. Some governors also have said their states will refuse to comply with the new rules.