“The courage to act before it’s too late.” That’s how President Obama framed his address on Tuesday on climate change. Speaking to students at Georgetown University, the President asked for a new generation’s help to keep “the United States of America a leader in the fight against climate change.” The speech laid out a new climate change action plan that includes placing limits on the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act, creating new federal appliance standards that will bring emissions down by 3 billion tons by 2030, as well as programs to increase the efficiency of our commercial, industrial, and multifamily buildings by 20 percent by 2020 (see the details of from the White House here).
While President Obama told the nation that the plan may not sound “sexy,” we at NEEP believe that it offers a modest but credible effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions at a critical juncture. Importantly, the plan builds on the leadership in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to promote energy efficiency and clean energy. Over the last decade, policymakers in our region have increasingly embraced energy efficiency as our “first fuel” because it is the least cost and most reliable option to meet our energy needs. Robust energy efficiency programs, more stringent building energy codes and product efficiency standards, building energy disclosure, targeted regulation of power plants, and innovative programs to transform the market in favor of energy-saving technologies have helped our region remain at the forefront of energy and climate change policy. This effort is already bearing fruit, as ISO-New England recently found that the investments the New England states have made in energy efficiency will ensure that we have sufficient and reliable power for the next decade, avoiding the need for new transmission upgrades or generating capacity.
NEEP is proud to work in a region with a traditional of leadership on climate change and we look forward to working to advance key parts of the president’s new plan. But we know that we cannot simply wait for federal action from the executive office or the Congress. Instead, we must have the courage to continue the bold experimentation on energy and environmental policy in our states and cities that have laid the foundation for the president’s announcement this week. We know we can save energy, reduce pollution, and strengthen our economy at the same time. The President’s plan for his second term should inspire us to continue this work before it truly is too late.