Environmental leaders and activists are making it clear that President Obama has only a narrow window to set the agenda for his second term and full plate of unfinished business to tackle. He indicated in a recent interview that, because of the influence of his daughters, climate policy will be one of the top three issues he sets as a priority for his next four years.
Making it a ‘top three’ issue, however – and thereby treating it like a special interest issue – is ignoring the ways in which climate will impact, for better or worse, the success of his other political endeavors. Once he realizes its far reaching implications and treats the issue holistically, he can begin to capitalize on its important intersections with the creation of a strong economy, the protection of public health, and a resilient nation.
Obama needs to make his second term his green term. Here are three steps the environmental movement would like to see that show he’s serious:
1. The White House can host a Climate Summit with leaders of the movement, allying with them to create a roadmap for his second term that will reduce emissions, grow the clean energy economy, and create resilience in communities. Kids vs. Global Warming is part of the coalition urging the Obama administration to take this first step.
2. President Obama can reject the Keystone XL pipeline, signaling that he understands that the overwhelming majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Rejecting the Keystone XL heeds the advice the nation’s leading climate scientists, protects the Americans in the path of the pipeline, and shows respect for the Canadian First Nations who are poisoned by tar sands excavation. On President’s Day, April 22nd, thousands of Americans will rally in Washington, D.C.with 350.org, the Hip Hop Caucus, and The Sierra Club to ensure he does so.
3. He can support and defend the EPA’s first-ever effort to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The EPA was granted this power by the Supreme Court under the Clean Air Act and unveiled its regulations for new power plants in the spring of 2012. This year, when the EPA begins enforcing these carbon regulations on existing power plants, it will undoubtedly come under attack for its continued ‘war on coal.’ President Obama should defend the EPA with organizations like The Natural Resources Defense Council to ensure the Agency’s power is not undermined.
While campaigning for his second term in office, President Obama was remarkably silent on the issue of climate change. Now that he’s securely back in office as the nation’s leader, the risks of inaction are too great for him to remain ambivalent on climate and energy policy. After a year of off-the-charts extreme weather events – including disastrous drought conditions in the heartland, record-breaking heat waves, and severe storm patterns – the nation (and the world) needs a US President who will lead on on climate change.
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About the AuthorEmily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.
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