Local leaders praise Obama’s plan to fight climate change

Mayor Betsy Hodges and other Minnesota leaders commended President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan released Monday — the country’s first national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

The regulations call for a 32 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 — roughly the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road.

Power plants are responsible for about a one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

Hodges, who recently returned from a summit on climate change at the Vatican with mayors around the world, called the president’s plan a “strong step forward.”

“The world must see that the U.S. is committed to tackling climate change if we hope to have real outcomes at the global climate accord in December — and we need real outcomes,” she said. “Residents across Minneapolis are doing their part to combat climate change and will continue to support national and international efforts to tackle this problem. Congress should be right there with us and take action to reduce carbon pollution at power plants.”

Meanwhile, the plan faces stiff opposition from Republican leaders in Congress and supporters of the coal industry who have pledged to take legal action to block the plan.

The Clean Power Plan allows states to develop their own policies to ensure power plants meet the new standards. The state plans are due by September 2016.

It also creates a new Clean Energy Incentive Program with a focus on driving investments in renewable energy in low-income communities.

Minnesota is a leader among states in reducing its reliance on carbon for energy. It has reduced carbon pollution from the power sector by 21 percent since 2008, according to a fact sheet from the White House.

In 2014, the state had about 3,800 people working in the wind and solar industries.

Minnesota has also already set a goal of generating 21.5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020 and 26.5 percent by 2025 along with cutting electricity consumption 1.5 percent annually, according to the White House fact sheet.

“Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren. It’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now,” the president said when unveiling the Clean Power Plan.

Obama said the window of opportunity to take action is closing fast.

“I don’t want my grandkids not to be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier because we didn’t do something about it. I don’t want millions of people’s lives disrupted and this world more dangerous because we didn’t do something about it,” he said. “That would be shameful of us. This is our moment to get it right and leave something better for our kids. Let’s make most of that opportunity.”

Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs, lauded the president’s plan.

“We shouldn’t sell our children’s future for a few more years of oil and coal profits, and I applaud the president for leading on this issue,” he said in a joint statement with Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona. The congressmen co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith also released a statement applauding the new regulations.

“Here in Minnesota, these rules will build on our bipartisan efforts to build a renewable energy economy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said. “With fossil fuels costs likely to remain volatile in the future – continuing to collaborate on a cleaner, more sustainable energy future will be good for both the environment and the economy.”