According to a White House fact sheet released on Sunday, Obama’s Clean Power Plan will implement the first carbon pollution standards for existing power plants and aim to cut carbon emissions by 32% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Established by Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Power Plan will cut US emissions and provide 30% more renewable energy generation by 2030.

“Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore,” said President Obama in a video released on Facebook. Obama called the Clean Power Plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

He said: “Power plants are the single biggest source of the harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. But until now, there have been no federal limits to the amount of that pollution those plants can dump into the air.”

Obama said the Clean Power Plan would also work to lower energy bills, ensure energy security and create new jobs in the US.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy said the plan would see coal power’s share of electricity generation fall to 27% by 2030, down from 39% in 2014, according to Reuters. The EPA also said it would reveal new state targets for reducing carbon intensity on Monday.

The Plan will play a major part in meeting the US’s pledge at the Paris climate change talks to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025.

The announcement was praised by Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders who tweeted: “We must move boldly to transform our energy system.” 

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association said the Clean Power Plan would mean “solid, well-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans”.

Last week, Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced she would build 500 million new solar panels if elected in 2015.

But the regulations proposed by the Clean Power Plan have been criticised by Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who said the carbon rules to reduce power plant emissions would increase energy prices and cost jobs.

“The fact is, US emissions of greenhouse gases are down to the same levels emitted in the mid-1990s, even though we have 50m more people,” said Bush in a statement. “A chief reason for this success is the energy revolution which was created by American ingenuity – not federal regulations.

“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy. The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.”

With coal set to take the brunt of carbon emissions cuts, National Mining Association CEO Hal Quinn said the Clean Power Plan did not represent the reality of supplying the nation with reliable power, replacing “affordable energy with costly energy”.

The regulations in the Clean Power Plan are likely to face legal challenges from states and industry.

Quinn added: “The nation’s governors now have a clear choice to make about their course: accept this flawed plan and put their citizens at risk, or reject it and challenge the EPA’s authority and competence to manage their state’s energy economy from Washington.”

Matt Field

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