The Climate change proposal by President Obama took the center stage this week. The President presented a bold plan for 32% reduction of carbon emission by 2030 ( from 2005 level). Historically, Presidents from both parties have presented climate bills in various forms. This proposal in particular, though rely heavily on regulatory frame work versus the private market model, might just work. The proposal presents an ambitious goal; but, allows individual states to pick own strategies to reach the goal.
In my opinion, the President’s proposal at this juncture is extremely important. In the United States, Clean Air Act of 1970, one of the toughest legislation in the world at that time, helped introduce rules and regulations to maintain strict standards for air quality. A major oversight was that this new law didn’t apply to the existing plants. As a result, coal plants were exempt from the law; and, weren’t required to follow the same sets of EPA rules. Coal plants went on to have a monopoly for more than four decades.
The states like Nevada did take leadership roles to move away from coal. In Nevada, a lot of credit goes to the bi-partisan leadership effort by the Republican Governor Brian Sandoval and the Democratic senator Harry Reid. In 2013, Nevada passed the senate bill SB123 setting a right direction, and signaling state’s shift from coal.
Though, coal generation has gradually declined (which according to this article that 10 years ago provided over half the nation’s electricity, last year provided 39 percent ), the President’s leadership at this point is very appropriate. Some States volunteer on their own to embrace renewable energy like solar and wind; but, others may benefit from regulation that will force these states to be innovative in moving away from coal.
The President has shown strong leadership by moving away from zero-sum approach, and embracing flexibility over strict direction to the individual states. According to this flexible proposal, “The rules assign each state a specific target for reducing carbon pollution from plants inside its borders, but allows them to develop custom-tailored plans for meeting these targets. States can choose from a menu of options to meet their targets: switching from coal to natural gas, ramping up wind and solar, reducing energy consumption with so-called demand-side efficiencies, engaging in cap-and-trade systems with other states.”
With the upcoming Presidential election, climate change will sure to be a political hot topic. The Democratic Party Presidential front runners have pledged to support the President’s proposed plan; and, the Republican Party Presidential candidates across the board are vowing to reject the plan.
As a strong advocate, I strongly believe that we need to do something urgently - to improve the quality of our environment. Whether it is the blue state or the red state, the President’s bold climate plan shall contribute towards cleaner environment, and ultimately help to improve the public health for generations to come.