Obama to propose 'national plan' on climate change

WASHINGTON DC, USA (UPDATE) - US President Barack Obama will Tuesday, June 25, bypass climate change skeptics in the US Congress and order tough new rules to curb carbon emissions, citing a "moral obligation" to save a warming planet.

Obama will also commit to new international efforts to slow carbon pollution, including withdrawing US support for coal fired power plants abroad and offer to discuss new initiatives with big emitters like India and China.

And he will pledge to prepare the United States for the impact of climate change, which his administration now no longer sees as a distant challenge, while seeking to boost renewable energy forms like wind and solar.

Obama will make the commitments in a speech at Georgetown University, laying out a national climate change strategy which will mark his most serious bid yet to honor earlier promises to fight climate change, which have fallen short.

The president will be using the executive powers of his office, since Congress, where there is widespread skepticism of climate change science and fear about the economic impact of mitigation efforts, has refused to act.

Specifically, officials said, Obama will require the Environmental Protection Agency to work with states and industry to establish tough new carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants.

Some opponents of his approach have warned that the plan could result in older coal fired plants being taken off line and may thereby raise electricity prices for consumers, which could disproportionately hurt the poor.

Officials counter that the plan will reduce the amount of electricity used -- thereby reducing fuel bills.

The plan will make $8 billion in loan guarantee available to promote advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies, officials familiar with the speech said.

It also directs the Department of Interior to permit projects using renewable energy sources like wind and solar on public lands by 2020 to power more than six million homes.

Obama will also set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons by 2030 -- a figure equivalent to more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the US energy sector.

US government scientists say that global temperatures last month tied with 1998 and 2005 as the third warmest for the month of May since record-keeping began in 1880.

Obama's speech will come a week after a World Bank report warned that severe hardships from global warming could be felt within a generation, and include widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat waves and intense cyclones.

Obama's presidency has witnessed a string of massive storms and other severe weather, including severe drought, record wildfires in the West and waves of tornadoes across the South.

Officials made clear that Obama would not use the speech to give a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project to bring oil from Canada's tar sands to the US Gulf Coast that has been slammed by environmentalists.

They said a State Department study was still assessing a presidential permit transaction for the pipeline, which was not yet ready.

Some environmental campaigners expect Obama to approve the pipeline, but to argue that he has already taken rigorous efforts to fight climate change.

A plan backed by Obama to start a "cap-and-trade" system with the first nationwide restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions failed in 2010 in the Senate, even with the president's Democratic Party in control.

He did however introduce stringent new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and promote new generation energy sources.

Obama's Republican rivals have slammed such efforts as wasteful government overreach, warning that tougher regulations would drive up the cost of energy and further hobble an already weak economy.

Earlier this month, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed joint action on climate change -- specifically the reduction of hydrofluorocarbons or "super greenhouse gases" -- after their first-ever summit in California.

And last week, in a speech in Berlin, Obama said the United States "will do more" to tackle the threat of climate change and that the world must act before it is too late. - Rappler.com