In the summer of 2013, President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan. It is a series of executive orders and regulatory actions to address the threat of climate change. As he announced it he said, "...the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren."
Climate change is having a profound impact on our country and our world. And, it isn't just an environmental problem; it is also an economic dilemma. Without action on climate change, we could be in deep water. A report called Risky Business predicts that up to $106 billion worth of property in the U.S. will be below rising sea levels by 2050; extreme heat will reduce the productivity of our workers; and we'll see more extreme weather that costs more to recover from--like Hurricane Sandy that caused more than $65 billion in damage and 10,000 people to lose their jobs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized the Clean Power Plan--a part of the Climate Action Plan that will limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Under it each state must create a blueprint for their state to meet it called a State Implementation Plan (SIP) over the next two to three years. This is an important step in reducing carbon emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Now begins the critical work of developing these state-based plans that can create and secure quality family-sustaining jobs, provide opportunities for disproportionately impacted communities and encourage investment and economic growth.
Each state must adopt a blueprint that can create and secure quality family-sustaining jobs, provide opportunities for disproportionately impacted communities, and encourage investment and economic growth, such as through investment in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. This is the path that best helps states proactively develop job creation strategies and recognize adverse job and community impacts where they may occur and create a program to address them.
States that fail to implement a state plan will be given a federal plan to follow. While a federal plan will ensure states meet the rule's emissions requirements, it may fail to account for state and regional economic issues. States that reject the opportunity to develop a State Implementation Plan--triggering a federally imposed plan--will miss out on an important and critical opportunity to shape a plan that meets their needs.
Over the last decade, America began an energy transition--one that is going to be challenging for some communities, especially coal communities and workers across the supply chain. States must be proactive in ensuring the jobs created by efforts to reduce carbon pollution are equal to or better than the jobs that may be lost. States can and should provide support for economic development to communities impacted by this transition to ensure jobs lost are replaced with good jobs with high wages and benefits.
The bottom line is that climate change is both an economic and an environmental dilemma. It can also be an economic opportunity if states take the lead and do it the right way--utilizing policies that will ensure high-road jobs while reducing the carbon pollution driving climate change and taking care that no community is left behind in America's energy transition. To get it right, the real work begins now.