In a historic moment, yesterday, June 2nd 2014, President Obama unveiled a new policy to limit the amount of carbon pollution that existing power plants can emit. The new plan calls for U.S. states to reduce their carbon emissions by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. Although it is true that the policy could be more ambitious in cutting GHG emissions, the fact that such a comprehensive climate policy has even been proposed in the United States is a great accomplishment. President Obama was able to pass such a regulation through the EPA’s responsibility to regulate air pollution through the Clean Air Act. The new rule will give states flexibility and support in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in order to allow for least-cost options to prevail. Options that states have to reduce their emissions include participating in a cap-and-trade system, implementing a carbon tax, adding clean energy sources to the matrix, and improving energy efficiency measures.
The news is also significant in that it prompted China, the world’s largest GHG emitter, to also act on climate change. Today Chinese officials have mentioned that the country will adopt an absolute cap on carbon emissions in 2016. Although details are not yet available, many believe this to be a significant in combating climate change.