On 25 June 2013, US President Barack Obama presented the US Climate Action Plan for steady, responsible national and international action to cut the GHG emissions that cause climate change and threaten public health. The plan has three pillars:
- cut carbon pollution in the United States;
- prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change;
- lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts.
Each pillar in the plan consists of a wide variety of executive actions the president can take.
The key mitigation elements are numerous:
- to cut CO2 pollution from coal-fired power plants by directing the US Environmental Protection Agency to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;
- to unlock long-term investment in clean energy innovation by making up to USD 8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced energy projects that use fossil fuels;
- to accelerate clean energy permitting by: directing the US Department of the Interior to permit 10 gigawatts (GW) of renewables on public lands by 2020; setting a goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables in federally assisted housing by 2020 [in July 2015, HUD and the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced an expansion of the renewable energy goal for low and moderate income housing to 300 MW]; and deploying 3 GW of renewables in military installations;
- to expand the federal government’s Better Building Challenge to focus on helping commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings become at least 20% more energy efficient by 2020;
- to reduce CO2 pollution by at least 3 billion metric tonnes cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings;
- to increase fuel economy standards by developing post-2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles;
- to leverage new opportunities to reduce pollution of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), direct agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy and commit to protect forests and critical landscapes.
The key climate resilience and preparedness elements also address several goals:
- to build stronger and safer communities and infrastructure by directing agencies to support local climate-resilient investment, and integrate climate risk-management considerations into planning and programmes;
- to pilot innovative strategies in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to support resilience and reduce vulnerability to future large-scale flood and storm events;
- initiate the creation of sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change;
- to protect the US economy and natural resources by directing agencies to: identify approaches to improve natural defences against extreme weather; maintain agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and landowners; help communities manage drought-related risk by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership; and expand and update efforts to reduce wildfire risks and prepare for future floods;
- to provide climate preparedness tools and information needed by state, local, and private-sector leaders through a centralised “toolkit” and a new Climate Data Initiative.
Key objectives of the international elements are equally ambitious:
- to enhance and expand international initiatives through forums such as the Major Economies Forum and the Clean Energy Ministerial, identifying new areas for bilateral co-operation;
- to combat short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Global Methane Initiative, and working under the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs;
- to expand clean energy use by promoting natural gas development and fuel switching, the safe and secure use of nuclear power, and clean coal technologies;
- to cut energy waste by aggressively promoting energy efficiency in critical areas such as buildings, wastewater treatment and appliances;
- to launch negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) towards global free trade in environmental goods, including clean energy technologies;
- to phase-out US fossil fuel tax subsidies, and collaborate with partners around the world toward this goal;
- to end US government support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world’s poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies;
- to strengthen global resilience to climate change by expanding government and local community planning and response capacities;
- to lead efforts to address climate change through international negotiations, seeking an agreement that is ambitious, inclusive and flexible.