“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our croplands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared”. -- President Obama, Second Inaugural Address, January 2013
These strong words in President Obama’s speech after winning his second term in the White House, perhaps typically strong environmental promises in the second term of a Democratic leadership. Last week the US President released his long awaited Climate Action Plan to very mixed reviews across the US, which remains by far the biggest polluter in the developed world.
The Plan sets out a variety of policies to reduce carbon emissions, prepare for the effects of climate change and place the US as the global leader in addressing international climate change prevention efforts. It shows strong intentions to tackle emissions from the fossil fuel industry, both through reducing its share in fuel markets and by making extraction processes cleaner. It promises strong support of renewable energy and, while not the central focus of the plan, it goes some way to promoting crucial efficiency measures in the urban environment.
The official document sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards set for appliances and federal buildings. The new strategy also expands the president’s Better Building Challenge, helping buildings cut waste to become at least 20% more energy efficient by 2020.
The Better Buildings Challenge, initially launched in 2010, set the broad aim of making commercial, public, industrial and residential buildings more energy efficient over the next decade. This would mean saving hundreds of billions of dollars on energy bills, reducing GHG emissions, and creating thousands of jobs. Through Better Buildings, public and private sector organisations across the country are working together to share and replicate positive gains in energy efficiency.
While the Plan sets strong targets for building efficiency, many would have preferred more detail in the setting out a path to achieving such goals, namely spelling out the word “Smart” in reference to buildings or the grid. “Energy efficiency is one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions” the official release said on buildings. Then “upgrading the country’s electric grid is critical to our efforts to make electricity more reliable, save consumers money on their energy bills, and promote clean energy sources” it continued strongly but vaguely about the grid.
Despite the very public release, the Clean Power Plan is far from concrete and binding. Environmental activists say the plan doesn’t go far enough. Right-leaning politicians and pro-industry groups argue that it’s a job-killing monster. The Supreme Court could still eviscerate almost all of it. Furthermore, the agency charged with implementing it, the Environmental Protection Agency, is currently facing charges of incompetence after it accidentally unleashed three million gallons of toxic wastewater in Colorado earlier this month.
[contact-form-7 id="3204" title="memoori-newsletter"]
“The actions are practically worthless”, said James Hansen, a climate researcher who headed NASA’s Goddard’s Institute for Space Studies for over 30 years and was the first to warn congress of global warming in 1988. “They do nothing to attack the fundamental problem”.
While on The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has been leading the opposition. He called for open defiance of the Clean Power Plan in a local paper, dubbing it an “attack on the middle class”. Attorneys general for at least 15 states have said they plan to sue over the new carbon restrictions, and many within the fossil fuel friendly republican party have gone as far as to say the proposals are illegal.
“It’s typical of the Obama administration, taking executive power he doesn’t have” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush alongside Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “I believe it’s unconstitutional, and I think, in a relatively short period of time, the courts will determine that as well”. Cruz also backed it up in a statement, calling the plan “lawless” and “flatly unconstitutional”.
However, hundreds of businesses including eBay, Nestlé and General Mills have issued their support for Barack Obama’s clean power plan, billed as the strongest action ever on climate change by a US president. This split in the US may be of no surprise to most followers of US politics but sure no one could have strong opposition to increasing efficiency through the use of smart buildings and a smart electricity grid.
However the Climate Action Plan goes down in the Supreme Court, it will not cause too much concern in the smart building industry who are fast creating a profitable sector even the most oil hungry republican would admire.