Our Climate Progress Will Not Be Stayed

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Our Climate Progress Will Not Be Stayed

'Unfortunately, the court can't overrule climate change, and its misguided decision won't protect our kids from this widening scourge; it will only slow the certainty and predictability we need to help clean up our dirty power plants.' (Image: NACAA)

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked President Obama's plan to fight global climate change by cleaning up our dirty power plants, pending the outcome of a court challenge led by the coal industry and some of the nation's biggest industrial polluters.

Tuesday's 5-4 decision puts a temporary pause on the single most important action we can take to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change. But it won't delay by one moment the peril and harm of climate chaos across our country and around the world, nor will it reverse the global shift away from the dirty fossil fuels that are driving this epic crisis and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

The president's Clean Power Plan provides clear rules of the road to help advance that vital shift. We're confident the plan will survive the court challenge on its merits, when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case in June. We would expect a ruling within several months, with review by the Supreme Court to be completed as soon as the spring of 2017.

This delay has temporarily put polluter profits first, while putting the rest of us at risk. We cannot afford to stay the progress we need to fight climate change. We can't put the fate of our future on hold.

That's why smart leaders around the country will keep working to bring the benefits of clean energy to their citizens and give them the chance to help shape their energy future. We can't let this legal challenge slow that forward march, even among some of the coal-dependent states that have challenged the plan.

Unfortunately, the court can't overrule climate change, and its misguided decision won't protect our kids from this widening scourge; it will only slow the certainty and predictability we need to help clean up our dirty power plants. That's what the Clean Power Plan provides -- and that's what the public wants.

Seven in every ten Americans want climate action from the next president. It's not hard to understand why.

We just wrapped up, in 2015, the hottest year since global record keeping began 136 years ago. Nineteen of the hottest years on record have occurred in the past two decades. We've all seen the disastrous results: rising seas, widening deserts, withering drought and raging storms, wildfires and floods.

That's why the United States, China and nearly 200 other nations just put plans on the table, in Paris, to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that's driving climate change by reducing our reliance on coal, gas and oil. This marks the beginning of a historic pivot away from the dirty fossil fuels that threaten the world we'll leave to our children. It wouldn't have happened without U.S. leadership.

Global leadership begins at home, and it began in earnest last August, when Obama finalized his Clean Power Plan to cut the carbon pollution from our nation's dirty power plants. These plants account for 40 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint. And yet, astonishingly, we've never put limits on how much of that pollution these plants may cough up into our atmosphere.

That's just wrong -- and it's exactly what the Clean Power Plan is designed to fix, by cutting carbon pollution from our power plants by nearly one-third by 2030.

Under the plan, states come up with a strategy for reducing that pollution, based on their individual energy mix, and the power companies develop the most cost-effective ways to hit the targets. Some are investing in efficiency, so we can do more with less waste in our businesses and homes. Others are getting more power from the wind and sun, which accounted for more than half of all the new electricity-generating capacity installed in the United States last year. Still others can tune up their own generating gear, from the boiler to the transmission lines, to help squeeze all the carbon pollution they can out of their systems.

The plan is sensible, it's necessary and it's fair.

It's also legal -- as we're confident our courts will affirm. The plan is grounded in the most fundamental mission of the 45-year-old Clean Air Act: to protect our citizens from pollution that puts us in danger. The carbon pollution that's driving climate change fits that description, in every sense of the term.

It's unfortunate, but not unexpected, to see big coal companies join hands with big polluters to try to derail the progress future generations are counting on to protect them from the grave and gathering dangers of climate change. That progress, though, won't be deterred.

Our children's future will have its day in court. Our laws will be upheld. And this country will finish what our leaders have begun. We will cut our carbon pollution today, so our children don't inherit more climate chaos tomorrow.

Rhea Suh

Rhea Suh is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

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