President Obama’s Climate Action Plan
On 25 June 2013, President Obama issued his Climate Action Plan. This is his Administration’s best effort to tackle the issues, but it also reflects the inability to pass federal climate change legislation. The absence of legislation will weaken US influence in key UNFCCC negotiations that are supposed to result in a global agreement by the end of 2015. Furthermore, because the plan proposes regulations that are specific to individual technologies and even specific plants, it will raise the costs of tackling climate change in the US. Indeed, delivering the most important measures in the President’s action plan will be slow and cannot be guaranteed. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faces significant legal and political challenges to introduce carbon emission standards for existing coal-fired plants. This uncertainty adds further to the costs of the proposed measures.
This may be the best that the President can do in the current political climate, but it is still disappointing from the perspective of the scale of the challenges. Nevertheless, the plan defines a US agenda for action to deal with climate change. It sends important signals to the rest of the world, and gives the EU a reason to put climate change back on the list of policy priorities.