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In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama ranked the importance of a climate change strategy on a par with national security, economic equality and a more effective political process.

Noting that the nations of the world have agreed to tackle the impact of a changing climate, Obama said, “Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources … And that’s why I’m going to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”

President Barack Obama works on State of the Union address in Oval Office, Jan. 11, 2016. Photo credit: Pete Souza
President Barack Obama works on State of the Union address in Oval Office, Jan. 11, 2016. Photo credit: Pete Souza

World Resources Institute President and CEO Andrew Steer applauded Obama’s stated intention to act on climate in his last White House year. “In its final year, the Obama administration should not rest. I’m delighted that the president seems to be considering additional actions to ensure that the U.S. achieves its emissions reduction targets and sets the stage for even more progress ahead,” Steer said.

Obama’s strong statements follow a banner year for the administration on the climate front. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy and Department of Transportation (DOT) acted to help curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from some of the country’s biggest emission sources. These actions build on the EPA’s and DOT’s greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and SUVs which were finalized in 2010 and 2012. The State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience has helped address local and state challenges while enhancing coordination at all levels of government to address climate impacts. And the newly established National Disaster Resilience Competition made almost $1 billion available to states and communities for cutting-edge projects to help recovery from past disasters and preparation for future ones.

U.S. leadership was instrumental in securing a universal global agreement with action by all to address climate change and spurring international action more broadly. From the joint announcement with China to launching a major new clean energy research and development initiative at Paris, the U.S. has been central to moving worldwide action forward.

But as this graphic shows, the U.S. still has work to do at home to advance climate action:

SOTU_graphic

This year, there are six additional steps the Obama administration should take to help the U.S. meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and cement the administration’s climate legacy:

1. Implement the Clean Power Plan

The EPA should continue working with states, electric utilities and other stakeholders to ensure that states are on track to submit their implementation plans. The EPA projects that the Clean Power Plan will reduce power sector GHG emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And while the Clean Power Plan will be subject to legal challenges based on claims that the agency overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the authority and an obligation to regulate greenhouse gases. In fact, many of the states challenging the Clean Power Plan in court are still considering compliance options.

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