White House Acts to Address Climate Change

Solar

Last month, President Obama took two key actions to address climate change committing to reduce carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Through the first-ever national standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plans and a series of executive actions, the president is demonstrating the U.S's commitment to climate mitigation and adaption ahead of the U.N. Conference of Parties (COP21) climate negotiations in Paris later this year.

Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan sets state-specific carbon emissions reduction goals, letting the states develop and implement their own plan for meeting the goal. Once fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

In a statement, NLC President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah said, "We are glad the administration has unveiled an initiative to act aggressively on climate change. For years cities have been on the front lines dealing with climate change - from rising sea levels and wildfires to heat waves and flooding - and city leaders have been taking action on their own to improve energy efficiency, adopt renewable energy programs and improve the resiliency of their communities. We continue to urge the federal government take action to support cities and towns and make a strong commitment to an international climate agreement."

Under the rule, states will have broad flexibilities to develop the strategies and solutions for meeting the state goals, including making fossil fuel power plants more efficient, increasing low carbon power sources, and increasing renewable energy generation. Among the implementation options for states is the ability to develop multi-state approaches and to establish market-based trading programs, such as already underway in California and New England/Mid-Atlantic.

State Implementation Timeline

States will be required to submit a draft implementation plan, or an initial submittal with an extension request, by September 6, 2016. Final complete state implementation plans must be submitted no later than September 6, 2018. States have until 2022, two years longer than under the proposed rule, to meet their interim reduction goal.

As states are developing their plans, it is important that local governments have the opportunity to provide input and participate in the decision making. EPA is requiring that states demonstrate how they are actively engaging with communities, particularly low-income and minority communities, as part of their public participation process in the formulation of state implementation plans.

Local Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs

Local governments will have a key role to play in meeting the state goals through their energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The administration expects solar, wind and other renewable sources to account for 28 percent of the country's generating capacity, an increase from 22 percent in the proposed rule. The president also noted in his announcement that one of the most promising compliance options available for states under the rule is increasing their energy efficiency.

With the creation of the Clean Energy Incentive Program, states are encouraged to make early investments in renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency programs in low-income communities.

Webinar

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, EPA hosted a webinar for local governments that focused on what communities need to know about the Clean Power Plan. Materials from this webinar are posted on the Clean Power Plan Community website.

Clean Power Plan for Communities 
Date: September 9, 2015
Time: 1:00-2:30 pm EDT
Webinar Access: Use this link to access webinar recording.

Executive Actions Supporting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

To complement state and local actions on energy efficiency and renewable energy, President Obama later announced a set of executive actions and private sector commitments to accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of energy and ways to cut energy waste, with a focus on helping households save on their energy bills.

Two of the executive actions are key NLC priorities:

  • Unlocking residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for single-family housing to make it easier for Americans to invest in clean energy technologies; and 
  • Launching a new HUD and DOE program to provide home owners with a simple way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of their homes, by increasing homeowners borrowing power.

To remove existing barriers and accelerate the use of PACE financing for single family housing, HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will soon develop guidance to allow properties with subordinated PACE loans to be purchased and refinanced with an FHA insured mortgage. While NLC continues to urge the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to allow local governments to develop PACE programs with senior lien status, this move by the administration is a step in the right direction.

Additionally, the new HUD and DOE Home Energy Score partnership creates a rating scale of a home's energy performance and allows single family households increased access to financing tools to make energy efficiency improvements. This program is similar to a provision known as the SAVE Act contained in the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 720), sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), which was passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July with NLC supports. The SAVE Act provides lenders and homeowners with more flexible federal mortgage underwriting rules that would include a home's expected energy cost savings when determining the value and affordability of the home.

U.N. Conference of Parties

The announcement of the Clean Power Plan and the executive actions comes as NLC sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid urging Congress to support U.S. leadership towards a United Nations climate agreement. NLC will lead a delegation of city officials to COP21meeting in Paris in December to showcase their cities' climate leadership and call for an ambitious international agreement that addresses our climate crisis and supports further action at the local level.

This group of mayors, called the Local Climate Leaders Circle, includes mayors of Atlanta, Boulder, Chula Vista, Columbus, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, West Palm Beach, and councilmembers from Santa Monica and King County, Wash. The members of the Local Climate Leaders Circle have committed to the Compact of Mayors, a global coalition of mayors and city officials pledging to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change, and track their progress transparently.

During his announcement of the energy efficiency and renewable energy executive actions, the President issued a challenge to mayors to publicly commit to a climate action plan ahead of the Paris UN meeting, and has set a goal of having at least 100 US cities that have signed onto the Compact of Mayors by the end of November.

"These leading mayors will share examples of how local solutions are playing a critical role to address the truly global challenges related to climate change," said National League of Cities CEO Clarence E. Anthony. "Our goal is for the Local Climate Leaders Circle partners to share the experiences and best practices learned in Paris with city leaders across the nation to inspire their peers to reach higher to mitigate climate change."