President Obama is nearly set to roll out a fresh blueprint to combat climate change, which will include tighter rules for power plants, a push for more energy-efficient buildings and appliances and additional green energy development on public lands, a White House official said Wednesday.
Obama recently told supporters at a California fundraiser that he would outline his recommendations for reducing carbon emissions next month. But officials with close ties to the White House said Wednesday the plan could be announced as early as next week.
“He is serious about making it a second-term priority,” Heather Zichal, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change, said at Washington forum organized by The New Republic magazine. “He knows this is a legacy issue.”
Zichal declined to give a specific date for when Obama would make the announcement.
But the president talked about the issue repeatedly during his three-day trip across Europe this week.
“This is the global threat of our time,” Obama said in a speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday. “And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work.”
With little appetite for climate-change legislation in the Republican-controlled House, Obama is expected to rely on the executive branch for new environmental regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency last year recommended limiting carbon emissions from new power plants — the directive was never implemented — but environmental advocates now want Obama to expand that rule to include existing power plants, as well.
“The EPA has been working very hard on rules that focus specifically on greenhouse gases from the coal sector,” Zichal said. “They’re doing a lot of important work in that space.”
Obama extensively highlighted the threat of climate change in his State of the Union address, hoping to appease green groups who said he largely ignored the issue in his first term.
The White House points to tens of billions of dollars in stimulus funding for green projects and tighter fuel-economy standards for vehicles as proof of the president’s commitment to tackling climate change. Yet, when a cap on carbon emissions died on Capitol Hill, the president — facing a tough re-election battle — didn’t fight for it.
At the same time, Obama is up against growing pressure from environmentalists to block the Keystone Pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. The White House continues to deflect questions about when Obama will render his final verdict.