Barack Obama announces limits on US power plant emissions, declares climate change greatest threat facing world


US president Barack Obama has announced the first ever limits on US power plant emissions and declared climate change the greatest threat facing the world.

“No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a change in climate,” Mr Obama said as he unveiled his administration’s ramped-up plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants.

“There is such a thing as being too late.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

“Most of the time, the issues we deal with are ones that are temporally bound and we can anticipate things getting better if we plug away at it, even incrementally.

“But this is one of those rare issues, because of its magnitude, because of its scope, that if we don’t get it right, we may not be able to reverse. And we may not be able to adapt sufficiently.”

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As a step to try to adapt, Mr Obama announced power plant owners must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Electric power plants account for about 40 per cent of US emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Mr Obama described the move as “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change”.

He rejected criticism that his plan would increase energy bills for Americans, hurt the poor, and cost jobs.

“This is the right thing to do,” he said.

The announcement fires the starting gun on a months-long environmental drive that will shape his legacy.

Analysis by the ABC’s Ben Knight

He talked about the American clean air act which has been around for decades, which is now the reason why you can actually tolerate walking or running around places like Los Angeles.

He talked about the environmental regulations that had been brought in over the years to stop things like acid rain, to take lead out of the environment and out of the atmosphere.

As it stands at the moment in the US, power plants, energy producing, electricity producer power plants face no restrictions on the amount of carbon that they are allowed to put into the atmosphere.

So this changes that. For the first time there are restrictions. It’s quite aggressive action that he’s taken.

Mr Obama has made it clear he is going to use these regulations to put pressure on other countries, including Australia who, he has indirectly already called to account for perceived lack of action. So here is how he says America is going to lead the world.

Later this August, Mr Obama will visit the Arctic state of Alaska to highlight the impact of climate change.

“Our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans,” Mr Obama said.

In September, when he will host Pope Francis at the White House, they are expected to make an impassioned collective call for action.

And in December, representatives from around the world will gather in Paris to hash out rules designed to limit global temperature increases to two degrees Celsius.

EU commissioner for climate action Miguel Arias Canete hailed Mr Obama’s clean power plan as “a positive step” to cut carbon emissions ahead of the Paris summit.

“The clean power plan is a positive step forward in the genuine efforts of the United States to cut its emissions,” Mr Canete tweeted.

New measures criticised as ‘overreach and heavy-handed’

However, Mr Obama’s invocations got short shrift from the Republican-controlled Congress, which described the measures as “overreach” and “heavy-handed”.

In its initial proposal a year ago, the Obama administration had set the carbon emissions cut from the power sector at 30 per cent.

Climate change is a hot-button issue in American politics and cuts are politically sensitive because coal, among the dirtiest energy sources, remains a major US industry.

It has some influential supporters, including senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a senator from coal-rich Kentucky.

“Not only will these massive regulations fail to meaningfully affect the global climate, but they could actually end up harming the environment by outsourcing energy production to countries with poor environmental records like India and China,” Mr McConnell said.

The leader of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy accused Obama of choosing a “green legacy over a growing economy”.

Industry lobby group the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity previewed likely legal action, saying Mr Obama’s administration was “pursuing an illegal plan that will drive up electricity costs and put people out of work”.

We only get one home. We only get one planet. There’s no ‘plan B’.

United States president Barack Obama

Accusing detractors of “scaremongering,” Mr Obama insisted suggestions of higher electricity costs, power shortages and a damaged economy would prove incorrect.

“When president (Richard) Nixon decided to do something about the smog that was choking our cities, they warned that it would ruin the auto industry. It didn’t happen,” Mr Obama said.

“In 1990, when Republican president George H W Bush decided to do something about acid rains, (they) said electricity bills would go up, lights would go off. It didn’t happen.

“We only get one home. We only get one planet. There’s no ‘plan B’,” he said.




Hundreds dead, lakhs displaced as monsoon rains heap misery on India, Pakistan, Myanmar

YANGON: Monsoon rains have claimed the lives of hundreds of people across Asia, authorities said on Monday, as rescue workers scrambled to reach remote areas of India, Pakistan and Myanmar in the wake of flash floods and landslides.

Authorities in India say more than 120 people have died across the country in recent days, while more than a million have been displaced by rains worsened by a cyclone that barrelled through the Bay of Bengal last week.

READ ALSO: West Bengal flood situation grim, Mamata monitors situation

Rescue operations in landslide-hit Manipur village

On Monday rescuers resumed their search for villagers after downpours caused a landslide in remote northeastern Manipur, where an official said four bodies have been recovered from a hamlet buried by a collapsed hill.

In neighbouring Myanmar the belt of heavy seasonal rains – augmented by Cyclone Komen – have killed 46 people so far and affected more than 200,000 with much of the country languishing under rooftop-high floods.

The government there has focused relief and rescue efforts on four “national disaster-affected regions” in central and western Myanmar, where villagers have been forced to use canoes and makeshift rafts to escape the rising waters.

Thousands of others are already in camps for the displaced including in Kalay, Sagaing Region, where residents told of unusually powerful flood waters swamping homes in hours.

“We’ve lost all that we have. Our house is still under water,” Htay Shein, 62, told AFP from a temporary shelter in Kalay.

Villagers wading through a flooded road at Chourigacha in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. (PTI Photo)

“We have seen floods, but never anything like this before. This year is the worst.”

An AFP photographer in the area said floodwaters remained stubbornly high on Monday, with many people making their way to safety in rafts cobbled together from old tyres, salvaged wood and large plastic bottles.

The United Nations warned swollen rivers threaten more areas of the country, adding it could be days before the true extent of the disaster emerges.

“Logistics are extremely difficult. Assessment teams are having a hard time reaching affected areas,” said Pierre Peron, Myanmar spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Landslides in Chin state – south of Sagaing – have destroyed 700 homes in the state capital Hakha, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has promised the government will do its “utmost” to provide relief, but said parts of Chin had been cut off from surrounding areas, the report added.

Rains have also battered the western state of Rakhine which already hosts about 140,000 displaced people, mainly Rohingya Muslims, who live in exposed coastal camps following deadly 2012 unrest between the minority group and Buddhists.

Monsoon misery

The annual monsoon is a lifeline for farmers across the region but the rains and frequent powerful cyclones that usher them in can also prove deadly.

Poor infrastructure and limited search and rescue capabilities routinely hamper relief efforts across the region, more so as roads, phone lines and electricity are knocked out by rising waters.

India, which receives nearly 80 percent of its annual rainfall from June to September, sees tragedy strike every monsoon season.




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