Late last month, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a detailed climate action plan in a speech at Georgetown University. The speech itself was fantastic, but some were skeptical about yet another “action plan” when so many past plans from both sides of the border are sitting on shelves gathering dust.
Here’s what makes me more optimistic that Obama’s latest is different:
1. Feasibility: Obama can implement every action in his plan without Congress. And by implementing this plan with sufficient ambition in key sectors like coal, the United States can meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target. That’s by no means a given, but certainly a possibility. Given Obama’s re-commitment to the target, it’s a possibility worth taking seriously.
2. Legacy and opportunity: That Obama chose to push ahead rather than blame Congress for inaction and focus elsewhere suggests that he is personally invested in the issue, or that he sees climate action as an important political winner over the longer term (quite likely both). In either case, he must now deliver.
3. International impact: The Obama administration wants and needs global action on this file. With John Kerry now heading up the U.S. State Department, climate diplomacy has become a priority. For the U.S. to have a meaningful role in that process, they must lead by example — something Obama’s speech and climate plan acknowledged. The next few years, leading up to the 2015 talks on a new international climate deal, are therefore critical.
Taken together, those three reasons are why this “action plan” may actually live up to its name.
Read more analysis of Obama’s speech from the Pembina Institute: