Obama moves to tackle climate change

26 June 2013

US president Barack Obama has launched a climate change action plan, which includes putting limits on the amount of carbon emissions from the country's power plants.

Obama at Georgetown Uni June 2013 460
Obama announces his climate action plan (Image: Georgetown University)

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Obama said that he was launching "a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate."

"Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air ... That's not right, that's not safe, and it needs to stop."

President Barack Obama

He said that his plan "begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy - using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy." He noted that some 40% of the USA's carbon emissions currently comes from it power plants.

Obama announced that he was directing the Environmental Protection Agency "to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants."

Although the climate action plan did not specifically give the use of nuclear energy a role in helping to reduce power plant emissions in the short term, it notes that the Obama Administration "supports the safe and secure use of nuclear power." The plan noted that the in the longer term, the USA will continue to promote the use of nuclear power worldwide through a variety of bilateral and multilateral engagements.

"So using less dirty energy, transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, wasting less energy through our economy is where we need to go. And this plan will get us there faster," Obama said. However, he noted that "this will not get us there overnight. The hard truth is carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now. And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come."

Move welcomed

Obama's announcement of the action plan was welcomed by UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres. She said, "It is significant that the new plan aims to start up rapidly and covers the full menu of solutions to climate change: clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and the many actions that all countries need to take to adapt to accelerating climate change." Figueres added, "When the United States leads action, it also encourages more rapid international efforts to combat climate change by strengthening political trust, building business momentum and driving new technology solutions."

Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) president and CEO Marvin Fertel noted, "When it comes to reducing the US electric sector's greenhouse gas emissions, efforts can succeed only if carbon-free nuclear energy plays a larger role in the nation's electricity mix." He stressed, "As a nation, we cannot reach our energy and climate goals without the reliable, carbon-free electricity that nuclear power plants generate to power our homes, businesses and infrastructure."

Fertel highlighted that nuclear energy currently produces almost two-thirds of the USA's carbon-free electricity. In 2011, the US electricity generation was 4344 billion kWh gross, 1874 TWh (43%) of it from coal-fired plant, 1047 TWh (24%) from gas, 821 TWh (19%) nuclear, 351 TWh (8%) from hydro and 121 TWh (2.8%) from wind.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News