Are We ‘Climate-Changing’ Our Ways?

Mattie J. E. Rush, Climate and Energy Intern

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore," President Barack Obama stated during the Clean Energy Power Plan announcement on August 3, 2015.

This statement sent chills down my arms as I watched President Obama's announcement. The Pentagon now considers climate change to be an immediate threat to U.S. national security. This action plan aims to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy by 32% by 2030 compared to the 2005 levels.

The Obama Administration recognizes that climate change knows no borders. Therefore, the Clean Energy Power Plan will “work with other countries to take action to address climate change,” through international climate negotiations that motivate global measures. Partners implements the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Senior Fellows program, an initiative by President Obama in 2009 to address climate change and energy issues throughout the Western Hemisphere. It is the Obama Administration’s hope, as well as ours here at Partners, that the Clean Energy Power Plan will help guide the U.S. to become an international leader in climate change mitigation and renewable energy production.

For the last 3+ years, our ECPA Senior Fellows have already been working across borders to combat climate change and promote renewable energy usage, and they are excited to support the goals of the Clean Energy Power Plan. It is our belief at Partners that through multi-sector and cross-border partnerships it is possible to develop adaptive methods that address both local and international needs. If we understand the challenges that we share, then we are able to empower communities to better protect themselves against deadly natural disasters.

Senior ECPA Fellow, Jigar Shah, stated in his weekly podcast with The Energy Gang that the Clean Energy Power Plan is compelling people to discuss things that they otherwise would not if the EPA was not “…putting it right on top of them.” Mr. Shah does not doubt that emissions will reduce, because currently both solar and wind are deployed at a scale twice that the Clean Energy Power Plan is calling for, and coal plants are being shut down at a rapid rate.

Former ECPA Senior Fellow, Paul Westbrook, posted that this plan is a “solid step in the right direction – now it has to survive the pushback from the special interests and their political allies.” He believes that eventually we will see a victory regarding both the economic and regulatory aspects involved. Furthermore, ECPA Senior Fellow, Dr. Dan Kammen, had this to say about The Clean Energy Power Plan:

“The Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan is just what the U.S. needs to take full advantage of the technological innovations in solar, wind, biomass, geothermal energy and in natural gas that have taken place over the past decade. 

What is so exciting about this plan is that instead of outdated claims that this will cost the nation, my laboratory finds that the benefits extend far beyond clean air, to an increase in investment in innovation in the power sector, increased job creation, and global leadership (”

Senior Fellow Dr. Kammen was also interviewed by NPR and Science Magazine. He stressed the need for the U.S. to maintain investments in renewable energy research, and noted that advancing research and innovations in the solar energy sector is key to achieving renewable energy goals; something that ECPA is currently helping with in Belize through the work of ECPA Senior Fellow David Williams. Other Senior Fellows, such as Mariapaz Gutierrez, are doing an amazing job in other countries like Colombia and Chile. Read more on ECPA Senior Fellows’ latest visits to these countries and the advice they are providing to advance the developments of low carbon emission goals.

I share my colleagues’ hope that this Clean Energy Power Plan is just a taste of what we can expect in Paris at COP21 this December. It is refreshing and reassuring to see our government taking these steps. I have always believed that we can achieve a world free of its fossil fuel addiction, one that is comprised of people and leaders committed to mitigating climate change. With the Obama Administration stepping up to the plate, my belief is even more assured, and our goals here at Partners even more tangible.

The time has come, so please engage your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors to do what you can to help us transition into becoming a society that respects the limits of our planet, and strives to reduce our negative impacts on Earth. I hope that you will join ECPA in the fight against climate change now. To find out more on ECPA Senior Fellows’ efforts, follow us on Facebook.