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Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

Obama Power Plant Plan Doesn't Cut Carbon Pollution Quickly Enough

More Ambitious Emission Reductions Needed to Ward Off Warming Crisis

WASHINGTON - New rules unveiled today by President Barack Obama don’t do enough to cut planet-warming pollution from America’s power plants. Using the Clean Air Act, the president aims to reduce existing power plant emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels (or about 7.7 percent below 1990 levels, the base year for the international climate treaty) by 2030.

But international scientists warned years ago that developed countries like the United States must reduce their emissions 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid tipping the scales further toward a climate catastrophe.

“This is like fighting a wildfire with a garden hose — we’re glad the president has finally turned the water on, but it’s just not enough to get the job done,” said Kevin Bundy of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “President Obama’s draft power plant plan should be strengthened to achieve the global pollution cuts scientists recommend. He also has to quit stalling on reducing emissions from other sectors such as air travel and the oil and gas industry. If we keep kicking the can down the road, the cost and difficulty of averting catastrophe will skyrocket.”

The Obama administration has said the power plant rules will help meet the emission reduction pledge the president made at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference five years ago, but scientists agree the Copenhagen pledges are not enough to head off a climate crisis.


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A May report from federal scientists found that global warming has already dangerously increased flood risk to America’s coastal cities and is delivering periods of intense heat that “last longer than any living American has ever experienced.” The National Climate Assessment predicts as much as 4 feet of sea-level rise and 10 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by 2100 unless deep cuts are made to carbon pollution.

Global warming is altering some ecosystems so rapidly, the report finds, that many species “may disappear from regions where they have been prevalent or become extinct, altering some regions so much that their mix of plant and animal life will become almost unrecognizable.”

The Clean Air Act is America’s leading tool for curbing greenhouse gas pollution, and 79 U.S. cities have joined the Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign urging the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to help reduce carbon in our atmosphere to no more than 350 parts per million, the level scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

“The Clean Air Act is a great tool for fighting power plant carbon pollution, but President Obama has to wield it more ambitiously to get the kind of emission reductions we really need to protect our planet,” Bundy said.


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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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