This afternoon at Georgetown University, President Obama plans to announce a series of “steady, responsible steps” to tackle climate change. It appears that the president will finally begin to make good on his climate promises, but to truly meet his obligation to future generations, this must be the foundation – not the final act – of his climate legacy.
The current Congress has made it clear that it will be on the wrong side of history, so it is absolutely vital for the president to use his authority to reduce power plant pollution, move forward with renewable energy projects on public lands, and increase energy efficiency. What the president will propose today is just a part of what it’s possible to do without Congress, and to solve the climate crisis, the solutions will have to be equal to or greater than the problem.
Greenpeace’s 3 million worldwide members will surely applaud the president beginning to lead on climate issues, but the bigger test will be whether Obama has the ability to follow through on this progress with concrete action. The president must finally abandon George W. Bush’s catastrophic “all of the above” energy strategy without half-measures or false promises. If the president intends to hand pass on a healthy and sustainable world for our children, there is no place for the Keystone pipeline, ‘clean coal,’ fracking, Arctic oil drilling, or giant giveaways to the coal industry.
While much of the president’s statement will be old policies repackaged, new carbon standards on power plants are one of the biggest steps that the president can take. The battle lines have been drawn; the coal industry will fight tooth and nail to stop new public health safeguards on carbon pollution. And the fight will continue to urge the president to take greater action to promote off the shelf, affordable clean energy.
We applaud the president for making this fight come into clearer focus. but his continued actions on climate change in the days and years to come will mark his place, not only in environmental history, but in world history.