Emissions from US power plants set to fall

3rd June 2014

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  • Water ,
  • Air ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management


Aida Khalil

President Obama has used his executive authority to enable the US Environment Protection Agency to put forward a plan that will require power plants to cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 against 2005 levels.

The agency’s clean power plan, announced on 2 June, is the first time carbon cuts have been proposed for the power generation industry and represents a major policy shift on climate change by US authorities.

Under the plan, the agency will set new standards (by June 2015) and regulations to tackle carbon pollution from existing US power plants. Also, each US state will set its own emissions target and submit a plan to the agency by 30 June 2016 on how it will meet the target. This can be a mix of energy efficiency, fuel diversity and demand-side management. Announcing the proposals, agency administrator, Gina McCarthy said: “The glue that holds this plan together — and the key to making it work — is that each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever way works best for them.”

The agency estimates that the 30% reduction in carbon emissions from power plants is equivalent to cancelling carbon pollution from 66% of all cars and trucks in America. Other controls introduced by the plan will see emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulates reduced by 25% by 2030.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants in the US are the largest source of CO2 emissions, accounting for around one-third of all domestic greenhouse-gas emissions. In his weekly radio address, the president stressed the importance of technology in the fight against pollution but said more needs to be done to tackle climate change. “We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulphur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Leaders from around the world have welcomed the landmark plan. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European commission, said the plan would provide further momentum for agreeing a new international agreement on climate change, which is due to be finalised next year. “Finding global solutions to the climate challenge is a shared responsibility. They can only be reached on the basis of leadership from all the world’s major economies. President Obama’s announcement will help give the world confidence that it’s possible to win this fight, if we fight it together,” he said.


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