Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks on U.S. Climate Action at the American Center, Tokyo, Japan, As Prepared
I’m here to talk about the world’s moral obligation to address climate change, and how the United States is rising to the challenge.
Since day one in office, President Obama has understood that climate change is not some distant environmental concern. It’s a problem here and now.
Today, we can already see climate change happening right outside our windows and on our front doorsteps. And nobody, no country, is immune to the challenge.
In the U.S., 1 in 10 kids suffers from asthma. And carbon pollution from power plants comes packaged with dangerous pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide—all of which put our kids and families at even greater risk.
Rising temperatures are bringing more smog, more asthma, longer allergy seasons, and letting dangerous insect-borne diseases extend further into new regions. These are very real threats to public health.
Citizens in low-lying Bangladesh and the Pacific Islands are retreating from sea level rise; parts of Africa are facing blistering drought, threatening the food supply; indigenous people in the Arctic are seeing summer sea-ice recede to unprecedented levels.
The longer we wait, the more inaction will cost us. As seas rise, so do insurance premiums, property taxes, and food prices. For the sake of our economies, our security, and our communities—especially those most vulnerable—we’ve got to tackle this now.
Our only shot at winning the fight is to act together – not just as citizens of our respective nations, but as a global community, living together on beautiful planet earth.
Everyone has a role to play — especially large economies like the United States and Japan.
That’s why, in 2013, President Obama launched his Climate Action Plan — a comprehensive strategy for the United States to meet its moral obligation and act on climate now.
In the United States, we’ve made serious progress—from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. And we’re already seeing results that prove we can get the job done while growing the economy.
Over the last decade, the United States has cut its total carbon pollution more than any other nation. Today, the U.S. is generating three times as much wind power, and 20 times as much solar power as we when President Obama took office. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system in the U.S. has dropped by 50 percent. And at the same time, the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.
We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in U.S. homes, buildings, and appliances—actions that will save consumers billions of dollars. And we’re investing in innovation. Just a few days ago, the President announced a set of new commitments to promote the development of smart, low-cost technologies that help households save on their energy bills. This includes millions of dollars for state-based projects aimed at building technologies that vastly increase the amount of energy each solar panel can produce from the sun.
We’ve also seen the U.S. private sector step up in a huge way. Just last month, Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs and 10 more of America’s largest companies pledged 140 billion dollars to help fight climate change.
And when it comes to greenhouse gases, we’re attacking the worst offenders.
On methane, the U.S. has set an ambitious target of slashing emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. To help meet that goal, EPA just proposed a new rule that would reduce up to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025—that’s equivalent to cutting 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
On HFC’s, we’re continuing to plow ahead at full speed to reduce the use of substances with high global warming potential and ozone depletion potential, and are thankful for Japan’s help to get our work under the Montreal Protocol over the finish line.
And on CO2, just a few weeks ago, President Obama unveiled EPA’s Clean Power Plan—tackling carbon pollution from the power sector, the biggest contributor to climate change in the American economy.
These actions add up. They add up to major health protections for American families and they add up to major economic opportunity. From every angle, at every turn, President Obama’s leadership on this issue has been fearless.
So when I think about how far we’ve come, and the way nations around the world are taking action, I feel confident that the solutions are here to tackle climate change. I know that together, we can do this.
The United States is doing its part, and the Clean Power Plan is going to speed our momentum even further.
For the first time in history, the plan sets limits on carbon pollution from the U.S. power sector. And it sets those limits in commonsense, achievable ways that will protect our kids’ health.
You all know that America’s transition to a clean energy future is already happening. Many power companies are already investing to modernize their plants and reduce their emissions. More than 35 U.S. states have already set renewable energy targets. And mayors in over a thousand U.S. cities have already committed to cut carbon pollution.
The Clean Power Plan is going to speed and drive that progress even more.
This plan puts the United States on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030—all while keeping energy reliable and affordable. And the cuts to smog and soot that come along with these reductions will bring major health benefits for American families.
Because of this plan — along with six years of concerted effort by the Obama Administration— in 2030, the United States will avoid thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions, tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and hundreds of thousands of missed school days and missed work days. That’s not all.
In the U.S., the plan is projected to drive up to 45 billion dollars a year in net benefits in 2030. In that same year, the average American family will start seeing approximately $85 in annual savings on their utility bills.
Japan and the United States well know that the environment is part of the foundation of a stable and growing economy. In the U.S., we know because we’re building on 40 years of environmental protection and economic growth. Over the last four decades, we’ve cut air pollution in the United States by 70 percent—all while our economy has tripled.
And in the U.S., we’ve set historic greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards that will send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade—saving families money at the pump, and revitalizing our auto industry. We’re now going after medium-and heavy-duty vehicles with a proposal that will reduce 1 billion tons of emissions, spur new technologies, and save consumers, businesses, and truck owners money over the long run.
Today, every major U.S. automaker offers electric vehicles. And since 2009, the American auto industry added more than 250,000 jobs. It’s clear that fuel efficiency sells.
And on that point, I want to congratulate Japan on its leadership in the auto arena; we’ve seen some truly remarkable work coming out of this country.
The bottom line is—solutions are here. Technology and innovation are turning what used to be impossible challenges into profitable opportunities. Not just in the auto industry, but with energy efficiency, renewables, and more. Countries who lead in these areas will be winners.
The private sector gets it. They’re already engaged. In the U.S., major investors and foundations are committing billions of dollars to finance clean energy innovation. They see the opportunity and want to seize it. That’s why the Clean Power Plan makes sense, and why it will do more than just regulate – it will change markets.
The great news is, the American people see this as an opportunity too. They get it. And they want in.
We heard from millions of people on our draft Clean Power Plan. We heard from states, utility companies, environmental organizations, and communities across our country. What we heard is that Americans are ready to stop talking and start doing. They want us to act and they want us to lead. The U.S. is answering the call and we’ve made a solid start to build from.
But this is a marathon, not a sprint. And no country can solve climate change alone. We need to get out of the gate running strong and we all need to be running in the same direction. That’s why I’m so encouraged by the steps being taken by our partners around the world.
We’re seeing the world community mobilize. We’re seeing nations from every corner of the globe act in ways that make sense for them and for all of us. Because we all must recognize that there’s no single path to a clean energy economy. Even within the United States, not every state is starting in the same place. Some generate more of their power from renewables, some from natural gas, nuclear, or coal.
That’s why the Clean Power Plan gives individual U.S. states the flexibility they need to meet pollution reduction requirements in whatever customized ways works best for them.
The key is flexibility. And that’s a theme that applies inside the U.S. And beyond. Because there is great value in sustaining the world’s diverse sources of energy.
We know that zero-carbon renewables and clean, low-carbon solutions will be critical going forward. These must be an important and growing part of the energy mix. That’s where the jobs of future are heading.
In the U.S., even with the Clean Power Plan, every fuel will continue to play a part including coal, natural gas, nuclear and an increasing percentage of renewable energy. Over time, these investments and innovations will get us where we need to go by 2050.
There’s tremendous opportunity to accelerate our progress on cleaner combustion and carbon-capture and storage. Right now, for new coal facilities, the U.S. is requiring C.C.S. at levels that are reasonable.
Over time, higher levels of capture will be available as C.C.S. technology advances. For existing facilities, investments in energy efficiency will be a clear winner, lowering demand for generation through highly efficient technologies, operations, and products. Electricity consumers have already been reaping great benefits across the U.S. through utility- and state-run energy efficiency programs. After all, the cheapest megawatt is the one you don’t need to generate.
In fact, under the Clean Power Plan, all low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, carbon-capture and storage, and more, can be used by states to meet their requirements. We’re seizing those opportunities.
The point is, there’s no one-size fits all answer. America’s approach is not the only approach, nor is it the best approach for everyone. Nations are acting on climate in ways that make sense for them, and that’s how it should be. The U.S. is eager to learn from our partners and to share our experiences all along the way.
So let’s talk about the road ahead.
Anyone who questions the durability of America’s Clean Power Plan is betting against history—they’re betting against our 45-year legacy of protecting public health and the environment. The actions in our plan are grounded firmly in the Clean Air Act, codified in law, and that is where they will stay.
We owe it to our kids to leave behind good jobs, safe neighborhoods, and air that’s breathable. So we must act domestically and globally now. I believe the huge steps forward we’ve taken in the U.S. will show the world just what’s possible.
And I know climate change is a challenge we can conquer, if we do it together. So looking ahead to Paris, I’m not just hopeful and I’m not just optimistic. I’m confident.
The world has mobilized, and we’re in position to drive toward a global solution that has eluded us for far too long. The time is now for strong leadership and ambitious action.