New U.S. Climate Plan Sets a Course Toward Clean Energy

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Heather Leibowitz

NEW YORK, NY – Today, as international negotiators discuss approaches to limit global warming at climate talks in Morocco, the United States announced a long-term goal for reducing pollution. The goal, and an accompanying plan for how to achieve it, would set the United States on a course to reduce global warming pollution at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by mid-century.

This goal is consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement, endorsed by the United States and nearly 200 other nations around the world last December and now officially in effect as of November 4. The Agreement sets out to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, with an aspirational goal of 1.5° C—a benchmark that scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The impacts of climate change are immense and could range anywhere from a major disruption in our food system, to the loss of coastal regions to flooding, to refugee crises. The planet has already warmed nearly 1° C above the 20th century average, and scientists have warned that urgent, wide-scale action will be required to stop temperatures from rising to dangerous tipping points. 

Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York, issued the following statement:

“This plan takes America in the right direction to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Climate change is a clear and present danger. 2016 is going to be the warmest year on record and is trailing ahead of previous records set in 2014 and 2015. We’re facing more heat waves, heavier downpours, increasing droughts, bigger wildfires and more floods. Sea level is rising faster and faster. We’ve now reached the point where seawater pools in the streets of cities like Miami Beach, Florida and Hampton Rhodes, Virginia are at high tide – even when there are no storm clouds in sight.

“With today’s announcement, we now have a national goal to limit the damage. To make sure we achieve and go beyond this goal, Environment New York is working to shift us off of fossil fuels and towards a 100 percent renewable energy future and a carbon-free transportation system.

“New York has a parallel goal for reducing pollution by mid-century. By taking action, New York can pave the way forward for the rest of the nation and demonstrate that reducing pollution is good for our health, good for our communities and good for our economy. Right now, Governor Cuomo has an opportunity to accelerate our clean energy progress by doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pioneering program that limits global warming pollution from power plants.

“We can do this. We already have the technology we need to shift our entire economy to 100 percent renewable energy and eliminate carbon pollution. We could power the nation ten times over with available wind resources and 100 times over with our nation’s solar potential alone. America has the know-how to make it happen and along the road we’ll put millions of Americans to work. Many U.S. states are already leading the way.

“America is not alone in setting a necessary and ambitious goal on climate.

“Already this week, Germany announced a plan to cut global warming pollution by 80 to 95 percent by mid-century. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retail company, pledged to cut its emissions 18 percent by 2025 and to prevent one billion tons of upstream emissions from suppliers and customers by 2030.

Many major corporations have committed themselves to 100 percent renewable energy, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Johnson and Johnson, and Coca Cola. Cities including San Diego, California; Aspen, Colorado; and Greensburg, Kansas are also all committed to 100 renewable energy. 

“And the public overwhelmingly supports action. Concern about global warming is at an eight year high. Almost three quarters of the United States agrees that we must regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Solar and wind energy are American’s most widely favored energy sources, with majority support spanning across party lines.

“We look forward to working with New Yorkers, and with all Americans and their representatives, to protect our communities, homes and families from the dangers of climate change by making this plan a reality.”