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Obama’s aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32%

As part of the Clean Power Plan, Obama aims to reduce the gas emissions by 2030

The Obama administration released the final version of its Clean Power Plan 3 August. It aims to reduce the US’ greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will set state-by-state carbon emissions reduction targets and ask states to come up with their own plans to meet those targets. The plan is intended to strengthen the US’ hand at international climate negotiations later this year in Paris.

It is perhaps the most forceful set of regulations ever implemented over the US’ energy sector and it drew fire from the coal, oil and gas sector.

US Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a strong backer of the ailing coal industry, said he’d do everything he could to stop the bill. The American Petroleum Institute said the EPA had overstepped its authority and the regulations threatened to “stifle economic growth.”

For all the political fury, however, there remains an enormous amount of uncertainty in how the new rules will play out and be implemented. For one, the plan will be challenged in court and – like many of the Obama administration’s other major policy initiatives – it is expected to end up in the Supreme Court. In seeking to broadly regulate carbon emissions throughout the economy, the EPA is operating in novel territory and it is far from clear when and which way the courts will rule.

Even if the plan survives the courts it will mostly be left to the next presidential administration to implement the policy. That will put climate politics at the heart of the Democrats’ 2016 presidential campaign.

For Republicans, the politics will be trickier. To win the party’s nomination, any candidate will have to come out strongly against the plan and according to a recent Yale university poll, that will put the candidate at odds with the majority of Americans. Still, it is likely that a Republican president would seek to water down or overturn the rules.

The EPA envisions states deploying a mix of renewables, coal-to-gas switching and efficiency measures, with many states likely implementing some form of cap-and-trade.

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