The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled a new strategy that aims to cut carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants by 30% by 2030, which it says would bring net climate and health benefits of up to $82 billion (£48 billion).
The EPA makes clear that the new strategy is flexible, “reflecting that different states have a different mix of sources and opportunities, and reflecting the important role of states as full partners with the federal government in cutting pollution”.
The proposal is expected to generate opposition among energy firms and the Chamber of Commerce, which claim the move will increase energy bills. However, the guidelines have the support of green groups and health experts, given that it is set to help reduce diseases related to pollution.
Presenting the plan on Monday, EPA chief Gina McCarthy said, “What’s special about the flexibility of our plan? It doesn’t just give our states more options. It gives investors and entrepreneurs more options to play to. It will deliver the certainty that private investment is looking for.”
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She added that those claiming energy bills will rise are wrong, because “if states are smart”, they would see energy bills that are 8% cheaper in 2030. She went on to say that it should never be the case to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.
Former US vice-president Al Gore said the new guidelines represented “the most important step taken to combat the climate crisis” in the country’s history.
“President Obama has taken hold of the challenges we face through a series of critical actions, empowering the EPA to enforce limits on CO2 emissions for new power plants, accelerating the adoption of renewable energy and enforcing bold new standards for fuel economy, while continuing to raise awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis and reestablish American leadership on the global stage”, he said.
Lisa Woll, CEO of the US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF), described the EPA’s steps as “crucial“. She added, “Sustainable and responsible investors welcome these developments and look forward to working to support the transition to a modern, low-carbon economy.”
Meanwhile James Cameron, chairman of investment group Climate Change Capital, commented, “We have to accept that fossil fuel companies will fight this legally and will attempt to slow things down. We have to hope that the US administration holds the line and focuses on the businesses that will do well in this transition, while dealing with the real human concerns that are affected by this important decision.”
Photo: Monica McGivern via flickr