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President Obama Highlights the Urgency and Benefits of Climate Action

By Kate Daniel, EDF Climate Corps Fellow

Hurricane Sandy. Record-breaking wildfires in Colorado. Ninety degree weather in Alaska. A deadly tornado in Oklahoma.

No wonder President Obama is getting impatient with the slow progress on climate action.

These events are the new realities of a changing climate, and they are the reason I am compelled to join the President’s call for climate action.

The President’s Climate Action Plan, announced today, outlines five key targets to address climate change:

  1. Reducing carbon pollution through new regulations on new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act
  2. Using more clean energy, including efforts to double again the amount of wind and solar power we use
  3. Wasting less energy by engaging in efforts like the Better Buildings Challenge to cut energy use in buildings by 20 percent
  4. Protecting and preparing for climate change impacts by providing support to communities working on resiliency investments
  5. Leading international efforts to strengthen climate agreements and promote clean energy in developing nations.

The President is bound to get flack for his plan, particularly from industry regarding EPA regulation of power plants. He acknowledged the opposition in his address, however, and challenged industry, the audience, and the nation to think bigger and wiser:

“The problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it’s a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity.”

Faith in the green economy

There are numerous examples of initial industry opposition to standards that eventually led to stronger industries, better products, and healthier communities.

Further, President Obama highlighted efforts that companies such as GM, Nike and Walmart have made to curb carbon emissions and address climate change. He noted that the stance these large corporations are taking on the urgency of climate change make the business case for climate action clear.

This business case is precisely why over 100 businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, and local government agencies have signed up to host an EDF Climate Corps fellow to help them identify energy savings.

EDF Climate Corps and Greenwise Joint Venture

If it were simple, our buildings would already be perfectly efficient and we would be relying on the sun, wind, and water to provide what little power we needed. The reason President Obama called for action today, and the reason I felt compelled to join EDF Climate Corps as a fellow, is that all sorts of barriers and opposition exist to doing the right thing.

One of the most significant barriers is finding the initial investment to make these ideas a reality: to convert power plants to run more efficiently on a lower carbon source; to fund the R&D of technology that allows our vehicles to be twice as fuel efficient without giving up speed, power, or safety; or to finance the upfront costs of a retrofit that will eventually generate net savings from reduced utility use.

There are tools and policies already in place that can help us address these barriers. For example, this summer I will be working with Greenwise Joint Venture to expand Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs. PACE provides a property owner with the financing to undergo an energy retrofit, renewable energy generation, or water conservation project, and enables the owner to pay back the costs of the project as an assessment on their property tax bill. This type of innovative program helps property owners over the upfront financing hurdle, and keeps the project costs tied to the property itself rather than the owner.

PACE is a perfect example of why we should stop thinking about climate change as an impossibly expensive uphill battle, and start thinking about how to unlock the win-wins of energy efficiency, clean energy development, and climate resiliency.

With the President’s plan come jobs, innovation, cost savings, stronger communities, and of course, a healthier, more habitable planet for generations to come.