President Obama Pledges To Help Communities Prepare for Climate Change, Reduce U.S. Emissions

Statement by Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jun 25, 2013

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2013) – President Obama will deliver a speech today outlining his administration’s plans to help local communities prepare for climate change and to reduce U.S. heat-trapping emissions.

Below is a statement by Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), who has represented the organization at international climate negotiations for more than 20 years:

“President Obama has a little more than three years to cement a lasting legacy on climate change, and he’ll need every last second. Americans are already dealing with worse droughts, wildfires, and coastal floods, and the practical realities of climate change are forcing political leaders to make this a priority.

“The president is absolutely right to emphasize preparedness. Mayors and governors are becoming climate change first responders and they need all the help they can get. The federal government needs to more effectively deliver the scientific information and planning support that communities need to cope with a changing climate.

“Of course, we need to do more than help our communities prepare for climate change. We need to address its cause.

“In 2009, President Obama committed to reduce U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The president can meet that goal, and if he uses every tool at his disposal, he can exceed it. Power plant carbon standards will be job one and he’ll need to make sure they’re finalized well before his administration ends. He’ll also need to use additional policies to maximize emissions reductions from the electricity sector and build on his success with reducing oil use and emissions in the transportation sector. To take one example, UCS released a report yesterday that found major benefits from a suite of policies that could halve projected U.S. oil use in 20 years. The policies, which could be implemented through administrative action, would reduce emissions by two billion metric tons and spending on oil by $550 billion in 2035.

“State policies such as renewable electricity standards and carbon caps in California and the Northeast will give him a boost. Renewable energy, including wind and solar, already provided more than half the new electricity brought online in 2012.

“The president’s proposals for reducing emissions should help strengthen his hand in international climate negotiations. But other countries will be watching closely to see how he follows through, especially on power plant carbon standards. The president can also build on his support for developing countries that are reducing deforestation and deploying clean technology.

“Even with all these policies in place, scientific evidence has continued to mount that deeper and faster reductions are necessary to steer clear of levels of warming the world has committed to avoiding.

“Ultimately, we will also need a price on carbon emissions that reflects the rising costs of climate change. Congress will have to step up to the plate. We’re already seeing public pressure mount on lawmakers, especially as the local effects of climate change become more evident and more costly. Given the current stalemate in Congress, the president is demonstrating the common sense leadership we need for ourselves and our children.”