Why We Need the Clean Power Plan to Fight Climate Change

Trump’s EPA chief will be signing a proposed rule to roll back a major Obama-era rule on greenhouse gas emissions—and we must not let that happen.
Credit: Austin Energy

Trump’s EPA chief will be signing a proposed rule to roll back a major Obama-era rule on greenhouse gas emissions—and we must not let that happen.


After three straight years of record-breaking heat, a devastating trio of hurricanes, and the costliest wildfire season ever, you’d think now might be a good time to step up commonsense national action to fight the growing perils and soaring costs of climate change.

President Trump, though, wants to yank us in the opposite direction. He’s moving to dismantle the Clean Power Plan—the single-most important measure we’ve taken to cut the dangerous fossil fuel pollution driving this global scourge. Derailing this 2015 rule, whose goal is to clean up our dirty power plants, is part of Trump’s broader assault on our environment and health, his reckless disregard for grave and gathering threats, and his habit of putting fossil fuel profits ahead of the national interest.

Trump and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who announced today that the EPA will be repealing the rule, claims it’s about jobs. It’s not. We’ve made real progress cutting fossil fuel pollution over the past seven years, all while the economy’s added nearly 15 million jobs. The shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future has been a leading driver of that growth, employing more than three million Americans—nearly triple the workers who produce oil, coal, and gas—in a booming sector set to draw more than $7 trillion in investment worldwide over the next 25 years.

Rather than build on that progress and seize the economic opportunity of our lifetime, Trump wants to bet on the dirty fuels driving climate chaos, by, for instance, rolling back the Clean Power Plan, withdrawing U.S. participation from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and exposing more of our public waters and lands to the hazard and harm of mining and drilling.

It’s time to stand up to these grievous blunders, embrace the promise of clean energy, and protect our children from the growing dangers of climate change.

Last year was the hottest since worldwide record-keeping began in 1880, breaking the record from the year before, which broke the record set the year before that. In fact, of the 17 hottest years ever, 16 have occurred in this century, and we’re seeing the results right before our eyes.

Seas are rising faster than at any time in the past 2,800 years, threatening our coastal communities and all they support. We’re experiencing the worst mass extinction in more than 60 million years. Croplands are turning to desert in Kenya, China, and parts of Kansas. The Great Barrier Reef is dying.

Combined, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria killed at least 160 people, leaving damage and destruction that could top $300 billion to repair. And wildfires have scorched more than 8.4 million acres this year alone, 41 percent above average, costing taxpayers a record $2.3 billion in firefighting costs

All this will get worse—much worse—unless we act now to cut the carbon pollution from burning coal, oil, and gas. More than 7 in every 10 Americans understand the challenge. It’s time to move forward, not backward.

The good news is, we’re making real progress. As a nation, we’ve cut our carbon footprint 14 percent since 2005, while our economy has grown more than 17 percent. In the process, we’ve reduced other types of fossil fuel pollution, including toxic chemicals that can aggravate heart disease and trigger asthma attacks. We’ve accomplished all this by investing in efficiency, so we do more with less waste; building some of the world’s best all-electric cars and hybrid cars; and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.

To advance this progress, the EPA put the Clean Power Plan in place two years ago to help clean up the dirty power plants that account for nearly 40 percent of our carbon footprint. We won’t be able to successfully fight climate change without dealing with that carbon pollution.

Trump says he’ll consider replacing the plan with another one—something that does more for fossil fuel profits, no doubt, than to fight climate change. No thanks; let’s stick with what we know will work.

Years in the making, the Clean Power Plan is informed by some 4.3 million comments from citizens who overwhelmingly support setting limits on carbon pollution from our power plants. It calls for cutting back that pollution at least 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Individual states and power companies decide the most cost-effective way to hit the target, through efficiency gains, wind and solar power, tuning up their generation equipment, investing in gear to cut carbon pollution, or some combination of all three.

Making those improvements can create another 560,000 good-paying clean energy jobs, while cutting our families’ electricity bills about $7 a month by 2030. In addition, the plan delivers nearly $7 in public health and climate benefits for every $1 invested in efficiency and clean energy.

Developed in keeping with a series of Supreme Court decisions, the Clean Power Plan can’t be swept away by presidential decree. It’s grounded in law—the Clean Air Act—and supported by the best available science. If Trump wants that on, we’ll take it up in our courts of law.

We elect presidents to lead us toward a brighter tomorrow, not anchor our fortunes to the habits of yesterday. Nobody gets to condemn our children to a world of climate catastrophe or deny us the promise of cleaner and more efficient growth.

As Trump tries to slam the brakes on the climate progress we need and throw the country into reverse, we must be there, every step of the way, to stand up for good-paying clean energy jobs and a livable world for our kids.