Obama’s clean power action contrasts with ‘small-minded’ UK approach

Green groups have compared US President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan with the lack of UK Government action, claiming Prime Minister David Cameron needs to do more to meet climate change targets.

Commenting on today’s (3 August) announcement of the Clean Power Plan, Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven said recent Conservative U-turns on environmental policy were making the UK look “parochial and small-minded.”

Greenpeace said Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which will aim to cut emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030, showed a bold vision in defiance of internal opposition from politicians and fossil fuel lobbies.

Wrong direction

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett added that the Prime Minister needed to end support for oil and gas in order to show leadership ahead of the climate change talks in Paris: “While the President is trying to inch the US forward on climate change, David Cameron is busily beating a hasty retreat.

“Since the general election, the UK government has launched a concerted attack on policies designed to boost clean power and save energy.”

However, Bennett also said Obama’s policy would fall short of emissions reductions required to tackle climate change: “In the face of huge US vested interests that oppose any measures on climate change, the President’s plan at least pushes the issue up the agenda.”

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett tweeted the US’s climate change plans made it even clearer David Cameron was “heading in the wrong direction”. 

US commitment

Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the landmark Stern Review on Climate Change, said Obama’s announcement showed the determination of the US President to maintain economic growth and cut greenhouse gas pollution.

Lord Stern said: “This is a very important announcement by President Obama which will reinforce the credibility of the commitment by the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as a new international agreement on climate change is being finalised.”

He said Obama’s commitment to reducing coal consumption was crucial, due to its higher emissions levels compared to natural gas and the air pollution generated by burning it.

Lord Stern added: “Curbing pollution from power stations in the United States will improve the health of Americans, strengthen its economy, spur innovation and growth, create jobs and opportunities, set a powerful example for the rest of the world, and promote the prospect of a more ambitious international agreement on climate change at the summit in Paris at the end of this year.”

Business supporters

With the prospect of legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan from states relying heavily on coal, mining and fossil fuels, a coalition of hundreds of businesses signed a letter to the National Governors Association urging them to support the plan.

The letter, which included signatories from Adidas, ebay, Mars, Nestle, SunEdison, Schneider Electric, Timberland and Unilever, said: “Clear and consistent policies can send market signals that help businesses and investors plan for the future. We are seeking long-term policies that provide businesses the certainty needed to transition to a clean energy economy. Electric power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States and the Clean Power Plan will be pivotal in reducing their emissions.

The letter to governors said: “As you develop your implementation plan we hope you will include the building blocks of renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will allow you to mitigate the risks of climate change and the volatility of fossil fuel prices.”

Matt Field

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