President Obama will soon be leaving the Oval Office. In the last eight years, the US has emerged as a global leader in the fight against the climate crisis. So we think it’s time to say goodbye and, “Thanks, Obama.” Here are six big climate accomplishments from President Obama’s time in office.
Under President Obama’s watch, the US has expanded clean energy technologies, regulated carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time, and passed major initiatives to improve energy efficiency – not to mention signing onto the most ambitious international climate agreement to date, the Paris Agreement. But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s take a look at the steps the Obama Administration has made to accelerate clean energy in the US and why Americans should be proud – deeply proud – of the progress we’ve made.
THE CLEAN POWER PLAN
In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The EPA projected the plan would bring many, many benefits for Americans, including creating tens of thousands of jobs, saving US citizens as much as $155 billion in energy costs between 2020—2030, and helping prevent some 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.
The benefits didn’t end at our borders, either, as the plan showed the rest of the world we were serious about reducing emissions, leading to a landmark climate deal with China in 2015 that helped energize international climate talks at COP 21. These talks led to the historic Paris Agreement being forged in December 2015.
The Clean Power Plan was a cornerstone of the US commitment to reduce overall emissions 26—28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 in the agreement.
A BAN ON DRILLING IN US-OWNED PARTS OF THE ARCTIC AND ATLANTIC OCEANS
In December, President Obama worked to seal his environmental legacy by permanently banning offshore drilling in Arctic and Atlantic waters controlled by the US federal government – an incredible 3.8 million acres. This is an important move not only to protect marine life, but also to protect our climate. This is especially important in the Arctic. According to NOAA, the region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world on average.
Some have gone as far as to call President Obama the “Ocean President” because he’s protected more marine areas from development than any other president before him. Since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, his administration has quadrupled the area of protected waters around the US.
COAL LEASING MORATORIUM
Between 2009 and 2014, companies mined enough coal on public lands to put more than 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent emissions of over 825 million cars on the road – every year.
In January 2016, though, the climate community had a major win when the Department of the Interior put a temporary freeze on leasing our public lands for coal mining (called a moratorium). The moratorium is a big deal because when coal is burned for energy, it creates more carbon dioxide per unit than any other fossil fuel.
The bottom line? When we lease our federal lands for coal, we’re helping fuel climate change. The moratorium – though temporary – helps stop that.
PROPOSED NEW FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS
One of the more important moves by the Obama Administration (and it’s gone under the radar in some ways) has been to significantly push fuel economy standards for the vehicles filling our roads and highways – and sending carbon pollution into the atmosphere. In 2011, the White House proposed new fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, requiring an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The administration also finalized new fuel economy standards for commercial trucks, vans, and buses, which are projected to save over 500 million barrels of oil and save American drivers an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs.
These new standards are the most ambitious any US president has implemented, and will save consumers money at the pump, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce US demand for oil.
IMPROVING ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN HOMES AND BUSINESSES
The Obama Administration has focused on increasing energy efficiency not only to protect our environment, but also save Americans money and create jobs. One of the major ways the White House is accomplishing this is through the Better Buildings Challenge, a US Department of Energy initiative focused on making homes, commercials buildings, and industrial plants more energy efficient.
The Better Buildings Challenge is projected to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020 through investments in upgrading offices, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings. It’s also projected to save companies and business owners about $40 billion per year on energy bills, which can be used to hire more workers and benefit companies in other ways.
CUTTING METHANE EMISSIONS
In May 2016, the EPA announced final regulations to curb harmful methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas facilities. These first-ever federal methane pollution standards are a big part of how the US will reach its goal of cutting this pollution by 40–45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
While there’s less methane than CO2 in the atmosphere, it’s much more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat – 84 times more potent over 20 years, in fact. Which means it can still do a lot of harm to our climate. These new rules will help rein in the millions of tons of methane the oil and gas industry is leaking into the air, and is a big climate win for the Obama Administration – and all of us.
DON’T LET DENIERS UNDO OUR WORK FROM THE LAST EIGHT YEARS
We’ve made a lot of progress in the last eight years thanks to you and thanks to the Obama Administration. Let the Senate know that we deserve a qualified cabinet advising the incoming president-elect – not one filled with Big Oil insiders and climate deniers like Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, and Ryan Zinke.
Make sure our senators do their job and only confirm nominees we can trust to protect the health of our families and the future of our planet.