Tuesday was quite a day for our movement. President Obama made his big speech about climate change, evoking a range of emotions.
This was the first speech that I have heard a U.S. President make about climate that had offered any kind of action-plan since I moved to this country six years ago to fight for a fundamental transformation in the way this country generates its energy.
I was relieved to hear the President contextualizing his comments about climate in hard, scientific fact. I was relieved to hear him reference extreme weather events: an acknowledgement that climate change is happening now, not a threat in the distant future.
The news that he will not approve the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline unless it will not significantly exacerbate carbon pollution gave me hope: because there is substantial evidence that this is exactly what KXL will do.
RAN has worked tirelessly with our network and allies to phase out coal mining and coal-fired power in the U.S. and I was especially hoping for something good in this area. The news about directing the EPA to develop carbon pollution standards felt empty to me, as the EPA already has that mandate from the Supreme Court. And I feel nervous about the ambition to meet these standards by drilling more gas unless “protecting community health and drinking water” is the bottom line.
Obama made a call for the end of public financing for new coal plants overseas. This is something I could get excited about and it could set a strong standard for the private finance sector to meet or better (although I want to read the fine-print about exactly which countries this will apply to).
Even if Obama were to implement every idea that was mentioned in the speech, it still falls far short of what I know we need to do if we are to address climate change in a real and meaningful way. And making a speech is not the same as implementation.
But, what I heard the most yesterday is that Obama has noticed that there is a movement in this country demanding change on energy issues and that these are the same people who elected him. I heard this when he made the comments about Keystone XL, I heard this when he talked about divesting and investing and I heard this when he talked about citizens standing up and speaking up.
The President is moving in the right direction here. Now it’s time to push him to go all the way. If we want to use this window of opportunity then now is exactly the time to double-down our efforts and demand that yesterday’s words translate into action today and tomorrow.
In the words of the President: “Make yourself heard on this issue”.