President Obama has always talked a good game on climate. But simply stating that “for the sake of our children and our future we must do more to combat climate change” is not a substitute for action. Today, the President proposed a package to step up the actions of the federal government to confront and attack this fundamental threat to our communities, economy, families and environment.
CLF applauds the President’s actions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are changing our climate – emissions that damage the public health as well as our environment; harming our kids and our climate. However, we feel obliged to point out that these are simply overdue steps in the implementation of the Clean Air Act. In the landmark case of Massachusetts v. EPA the Supreme Court clearly laid out the duty of the federal government to address the pollutants causing global warming under that law. This is not about unilateral action by the Administration: it is about the executive branch doing its essential job of implementing the law enacted by Congress and interpreted by the Courts.
While the emissions reductions efforts the President is proposing are modest, they are very much a step in the right direction — as long as they aren’t undermined by any approval to move dirty and dangerous tar sands oil through our country.
Addressing, Not Just Feeling, the Impacts of Climate Change
The President’s plans for taking on the practical business of adapting to and managing life in a changing climate is another common sense step in the right direction. Given the real and devastating impacts of blistering summer heat, rising seas, extreme rain and snow storms on our communities and economy, this work is essential. The focus of the Administration on climate adaptation efforts by U.S. Department of Agriculture is heartening. It is hard to think of something more fundamental to our families and communities than food; drought and other climate change impacts are wreaking havoc on our food system, and so far, this issue has not received sufficient attention.
Building on a Record of State Leadership
By moving forward with emissions reduction measures, the federal government sets off (at last!) on a path blazed by the states that have been leaders in the effort to reduce dangerous emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gasoline.
New England, along with a few other states and regions, has been a beacon for the nation on climate and energy policy. Over the last decade New England, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, has reduced its emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, the chief cause of global warming, by over 10%: reducing regional emissions by over 20 million tons a year. Our emissions reductions have been accompanied by a rise in new economic investment in clean energy and technology. In Massachusetts alone, an economic survey showed the Clean Energy economy growing by 11.2% between July 2011 and July 2012 with a business census revealing 71,523 people employed at 4,995 clean energy businesses across the state.
CLF and its allies in the region are continuing to set a high bar for both the states and the feds, pushing for a Coal Free New England where our electricity comes from increasingly clean sources and is used more and more efficiently, as well as reducing emissions from our transportation system by shifting to cleaner cars, increasing transit use and building smarter and healthier communities. We must continue to pursue emissions reductions that meet the mandates of science and science-calibrated laws like the Massachusetts and Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Acts.
CLF is all about environmental solutions – and therefore we cheer the decision to further expand the aggressive development of renewable energy on federal land and federally owned, managed and financed facilities. From intelligently and carefully sited wind farms to solar panels on housing projects to delivering on the promise of offshore wind, the time has come to go fossil free.
The Moral Duty to Act – Retreat or Surrender Are Not Options
There is no going back – the plans for emissions regulation, adaptation planning and renewable energy development unveiled today are long-overdue steps that require aggressive action to bring to fruition. The duty to act might be invested by law in the Administration but the moral duty to protect future generations rests with all of us and we must hear the call and push our elected representatives, from the President on down, to take action.