State of the Union underlines US Climate Action Plan

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29 January 2014

NEW YORK: On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.

Similar to most of his previous addresses, the President identified climate change as one of the major challenges currently facing the nation.

“The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact,” the President said.

Unlike previous speeches however, there was no call for new legislation, or announcement of new executive actions. Instead, the President reemphasized the nation’s achievements to date, as well as his Climate Action Plan, announced last year, which aims to adopt new carbon regulations for power plants.

“We have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.”

According to the 2014 Climate Action Report released earlier this month by the State Department, the President’s Climate Action Plan “will keep the US on track to reach [its] goal of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.” It estimates that actions in the Plan to reduce carbon dioxide in the energy sector, methane, and HFCs will result in emissions reductions of between 610 million and one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Evan Juska, Head of US Policy for The Climate Group, said: “It’s pretty clear that the Administration is now focused on implementing its Plan, and hitting the short-term target.  After five years in office, there’s less emphasis on long-term goals and solutions, and more on just doing what’s possible to get the country headed in the right direction.”

Climate action was also framed in broader context of an “all of the above” energy approach, with the President touting the nation’s increased oil and gas production, as well its success in growing the domestic solar industry.

“The ‘all the above’ energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and…one of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

Amy Davidsen, US Executive Director, The Climate Group, said: "The President's remarks point to the fact that natural gas will only get us so far in terms of the significant emissions cuts that need to occur in the coming years. The President's Climate Action Plan is an important start, but we also need to work towards long-term solutions that will lead to net zero emissions by 2050."

A full transcript of the speech can be found here.

Read the 2014 US Climate Action report.

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