New US rules cut power plant pollution as Australia goes backwards Media Release

Jun 03, 2014 - 8:06am

The announcement overnight  that the United States will seek to significantly reduce carbon pollution from its power plants highlights once again that Australia is heading backwards against the rising tide on global climate action, said The Climate Institute.

New proposed rules to cut power plant pollution by 25 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030 were announced by the US Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. Power plants are responsible for forty per cent of US carbon dioxide emissions and, as in Australia, around 30 per cent of all greenhouse gases. 

“This is a hugely important move, because we’re now seeing both the United States and China—the world’s largest economies and the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases—stepping up their efforts to cut carbon pollution,” said John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute. 

China has seven pilot emissions trading schemes pricing and limiting carbon pollution, as well as various clean energy incentives which saw renewable energy capacity additions outstrip fossil fuelled power additions last year. Last week a leading Chinese bureaucrat indicated 2018 as the potential start date for a national scheme.  

“The proposed rules offer flexibility to states and utilities on how they reduce their emissions – whether through state based carbon markets, energy efficiency measures, support for renewable energy or increasing lower carbon alternatives such as gas," said Connor. 

“With Congress frustrating the President’s desire for a national cap and trade scheme, or carbon market, this is a sensible alternative that will be a boost to state based carbon markets in North East US and California.”

“Meanwhile Australia could become the first country in the world to dismantle a carbon market."  

“If the Government is successful in repealing our carbon market and supporting agencies we will be left with a Government fund subject to annual budget battles, a renewable energy target under review and regulatory ‘safeguard mechanisms’ still to be detailed over the next year.”

The United States—the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases—is aiming to cut its emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.  This would be a decline of 21 per cent below 2000 levels, outshining Australia’s minimum target of 5 per cent reduction from 2000 levels by 2020, but below the maximum 25 per cent reduction commitment still on the table. 

The new U.S rules will add to existing federal regulations such as mandatory vehicle emission standards (ours are voluntary), state-based carbon pricing and renewable energy investment which have helped US emissions fall 10 per cent since 2005.  Switching from coal to gas has also been important but has shown recent reverses.  

US climate action to date is outlined in more detail in a recent media brief by The Climate Institute.

For more information

Kristina Stefanova, — Communications Director, The Climate Institute, 02 8239 6299

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