A Scan of Critical World Developments
Obama’s Carbon Regulations: Welcome but Wanting
Earlier this month, the Obama Administration released its long-awaited proposal for regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants. The draft version of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” aims to reduce CO2 emissions from the US electric power sector by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. However, the goal is less ambitious than it looks at first glance. Emissions have fallen since 2005 because low natural gas prices led to the displacement of coal by gas generation, and the power sector accounts for only 40% of total US CO2 emissions. Taking that into account, the plan would only reduce total emissions by about 7% from 2012 levels. Many environmentalists, while pleased with the proposed action, hope that the reduction target can be increased during the comment period before the finalization of the regulations next year. Nevertheless, the administration’s proposal marks a welcome change from Washington inaction. It sends a positive message in advance of the major climate meeting in Paris next year. The new framework, once in place in about two years, can provide a foundation for increasing the emissions reduction target later if and when, stronger political will evolves.