The Clean Power Plan is both good news and bad news. It’s a positive step in lessening our society’s impacts on climate, but the plan still leaves a number of alarming issues unaddressed and is inadequate in others. Before Portland Mayor Charlie Hales met with President Obama on Monday, Mia Reback, a 350PDX community organizer, spoke with the mayor about the plan. “I appealed to Hales to ask the president to reverse his stance on Arctic drilling,” Reback said. “Approving a new large-scale fossil fuel development, like Shell’s proposed Arctic drilling, is reckless and puts American people at risk. Obama should rescind Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic.”
But Arctic drilling was conspicuously absent from Obama’s landmark climate initiative. On August 3rd, President Obama officially announced a state-led Clean Power Plan that “will cut U.S. carbon pollution from the power sector by 870 million tons, or 32 percent below 2005 levels, in 2030.” The plan includes regulations on the carbon emissions of power plants, increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, and a renewed investment in both new and existing clean energy infrastructure. In his press release, Obama stated: “We’re giving states the time and flexibility they need to cut pollution in a way that works for them, and we’ll reward the states that take action sooner than later, because time is not on our side here…By setting these standards, we can speed up our transition to a cleaner, safer future.” And, yet, states have until 2022—seven long years—until they need to begin compliance with the plan.
After the urgent public support witnessed at the sHell No protest and last year’s People’s Climate March, some expected Obama’s plan to better address issues like Arctic drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. “If Obama truly wants to leave behind an impressive climate change legacy,” Daphne Wysham, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for Sustainable Economy, said, “he needs to 1) withdraw Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic; 2) end all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects across the U.S.; 3) ensure that all targets and timetables for greenhouse gas emissions reductions are in sync with what the climate science requires, which would get the U.S. to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; 4) begin a World War II-type mobilization toward a 100 percent renewable energy economy; and 5) make the polluters, not the American people, pay for the significant costs of climate change adaptation and mitigation.”
In a time of heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and catastrophic flooding, when hundreds of salmon are dying in sun-charred streams, Obama’s gradual, tidy phasing out of dirty power plants is nowhere near enough to make a sufficient impact. These sentiments are shared by Evan Weber, co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. “With the release of the final Clean Power Plan—this administration’s landmark climate action—it’s abundantly clear that President Obama’s climate policies won’t be enough to protect us from the threat of a radically warmed world,” Weber said. “It’s time to create our own power plan: a plan to build the political power in every community to show the demand for strong government action to transition us away from all fossil fuels once and for all. That includes moving us away from climate-warming natural gas, which we’re afraid the President’s policies still unduly favor. We, the people, are our only hope for climate justice. It’s up to us to our generation to build power from the bottom up in every state across the country to win back our governments—and our future—from the fossil fuel industry.”
Yes—it’s up to us. It’s up to us to protest and petition and rally and blockade and strike; to write to local newspapers, and share opinions on social media, and speak to our friends, neighbors and elected officials; to stand up for what we believe in through acts of civil disobedience. It’s up to us to make the government hear our voices instead of the deep rumble of corporate money. Let’s ensure that Obama’s Clean Power Plan is only one of many more government actions addressing the causes of climate change.
Written by Francesca Varela. She is a local author and 350pdx volunteer.