Obama to target climate change with or without Congress

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USA: President Obama gave more details of his climate and energy plans saying “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will”. Obama announced a new Energy Security Trust fund will be established, a 50% energy efficiency target set for 2033 and he pledged to keep supporting renewable energy firms in the US. He also promised to cut red tape for new oil and gas exploration. (The White House)

Full climate and energy excerpt from the State of the Union:

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. (Applause.) We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire – a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district. I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings.

USA: Senators in the US will follow up on President Obama’s State of the Union address by announcing new legislation on Thursday that would use a fee on “carbon pollution emissions” to fund investments in renewable energy. (Office of Senator Bernie Sanders)

Norway: Statoil will build an oil terminal on Norway’s Arctic coast. The company’s vice president Oeystein Michelsen said it would “spark off a new industrial era” in the north of Norway. (Fox News)

Science: Cities can reduce their emissions by 70% by encouraging electric vehicles, cycle routes and improving the energy efficiency of building stock. The University of Toronto found 70% of emissions from cities could be reduced if cooling and heating infrastructure shifted towards renewable sources of energy as well. (Times of India)

EU: The WWF has called on the EU to withhold more than the suggested 900m carbon credits from its emissions trading scheme in an effort to make it more competitive. The NGO’s head of EU climate and energy policy also rated individual member country’s climate performance handing out no grade higher than a D. (EurActiv)

Middle East: NASA has uncovered evidence of an impending water crisis in the Middle East. The research conducted in partnership with the University of California found that while drought had contributed to the drop in aquifer levels, unsustainable pumping of groundwater resources had contributed to 60% of the observed loss. (New York Times)

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