California leads on cutting carbon: Now Nation stands to follow

Media Releases

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Oakland, CA- As international leaders prepare for the United Nations Climate Summit next week in New York, a new study shows that if the United States’ fleet of coal- and gas-burning power plants were a country, it would be the 3rd-largest carbon polluter globally, behind the US as a whole and China. Environmental advocates and Oakland City Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Libby Schaaf, and Rebecca Kaplan pointed to the data to support proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants nationwide.

“California is a leader in cutting carbon pollution, but when power plants in the U.S. create such a huge piece of the world’s carbon emissions, we know there’s more to be done,” said Mac Farrell for Environment California RPC. “It’s time to stop ignoring the nation’s largest global-warming polluter—dirty power plants–and start investing in clean energy.”

The speakers stood in the center of historic Jack London Square, which could largely be inundated by rising sea levels by the end of the century, according to estimates from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

The Environment California Research & Policy Center report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, comes as more than a hundred thousand activists and world leaders are set to converge in New York City seeking solutions to climate change, which scientists have linked to extreme weather events such as the extreme drought sweeping the Southwestern U.S.

The report also comes as the Environmental Protection Agency takes public comments on proposed, first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the limits would be the largest step the United States or any country has ever taken to cut global warming emissions.

By comparing carbon emissions from U.S. power plants in 2012 to total carbon emissions of entire countries, the Environment California RPC analysis shows why limiting pollution from power plants would make such a big impact. Key findings include:

  • U.S. power plants produced nearly as much carbon dioxide pollution in 2012 as was produced cumulatively that year in all of South America, Canada and Mexico.
  • In 2012, U.S. power plants produced more carbon pollution than the entire economies of Russia, India, Japan or any other nation besides China.
  • Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan would reduce as much carbon pollution in 2030 as the entire country of Canada, the world’s 8th-largest polluter, emits today.
  • California’s power plants still release as much carbon pollution as the entire country of Switzerland.

The Clean Power Plan would also spur investments in clean energy like wind and solar power, for which there is vast potential across the country. In California, we are well on our way to reaching 1 million solar powered rooftops statewide by 2020.

Americans have submitted more than 6 million comments to EPA supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants; and more than a thousand people testified in support of the Clean Power Plan at hearings held across the country this summer. Local elected officials, small businesses owners and dozens of members of Congress have all voiced support for limits on carbon pollution.

“By cutting hundreds of millions of tons of toxic pollutants, like carbon, there will be significant benefits for our health, the climate and for future generations. I support EPA’s Clean Power Plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants and to invest in a cleaner and more sustainable future,” said Oakland City Council President Pro Tem Rebecca Kaplan.

“Cities like Oakland Can’t take on climate change alone. We need the federal government to step up and do its part to protect us all from the threat of climate change,” said Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaaf.

“Governor Brown and much of California’s congressional delegation are true climate champs who are leading the way in cutting pollution and shifting to clean energy,” said Farrell. “The Environmental Protection Agency should encourage more states to follow California’s lead by finalizing a strong Clean Power Plan.”


Environment California Research & Policy Center is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy group working for the places we love and the environmental values we share.