It’s a big day for President Obama’s climate legacy, as the White House readies the unveiling of a retuned version of its Clean Power Plan, which was initially sketched out one year ago to limit carbon emissions from American power plants. Under the program, the EPA will give individual emissions reductions targets to states and allow them three years to devise a plan to meet the goals. States will then have until 2022 to begin implementing those cuts through 2030. The end result of these state-level actions should amount to a 32 percent reduction of emissions by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels.
The Clean Power Plan v. 2.0 includes an incentive program aimed at boosting wind and solar power to 28 percent of the national energy mix by 2030. Though the EPA won’t dictate how states ought to meet their targets, this Clean Energy Incentive Program taps renewables as the favored option. Shale gas certainly isn’t getting a similar amount of love, despite the fact that it’s responsible for dethroning Old King Coal as the country’s biggest source of power earlier this year.
But what about costs? As the FT reports, the EPA is including the health benefits of fewer emissions in its calculus to show this plan as having a net benefit for the economy:
Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency…said it would yield $34bn-$54bn in benefits by 2030, including fewer premature deaths and illnesses, while costing $8.4bn.
The President’s policy is sure to be buffeted by both legal and congressional challenges. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity released a statement saying, “[t]he president’s relentless climate crusade cannot be put ahead of the priorities of hard-working Americans who will pay the ultimate price of staggering electricity bills and lost jobs.” Coal plants will be the biggest loser under this new program, so expect plenty of opposition in court from the industry and vocal outrage from congressional representatives from coal-producing states.
Looking forward, greens will hope this helps build momentum for American leadership at the looming climate conference in Paris this December. But let’s not mistake national plans—with plenty of hurdles yet to clear—for support for international agreements. The Global Climate Treaty is still as unlikely today as it was yesterday for the simple reason that Congress won’t ratify a binding deal. Countries can and will still try to address climate change at the national level, but greens hoping to see anything other than an eco-version of the Kellogg-Briand pact in France this winter are deluding themselves.