Climate Action

Will Obama’s 2016 Budget Pave the Way for Climate Action?

“Deep, persistent drought. Longer, fiercer wildfire seasons. High tides flooding downtowns. Severe storms wreaking havoc. This is the picture from the front lines of climate change in communities across America.” Yesterday, President Obama proved his commitment to fighting climate change in his 2016 budget proposal. Out of his $3.99 trillion budget, billions have been set aside for ambitious climate action programs. What did we take away? A strong theme powered through Obama’s budget. A delayed response to climate change will be detrimental to the future of America’s economy: “the ability of policymakers to make smart investment decisions and to steward the Federal budget over the long term is increasingly dependent on understanding the Federal Government’s exposure to climate risks.” Noting that reducing the threat of climate change is an economic opportunity, the budget includes $239 million to support EPA’s Clean Power Plan standards to address climate change. The standards have received mixed responses: green activists say they are too low, allowing states to make no cuts to power-plant carbon emissions. A $4 billion proposal would support states to exceed the minimum requirements—paving the way for clean energy to enter the power sector. It also proposes to invest $7.4 billion in clean energy technology programs aimed at supporting job creation and increasing energy security—including efforts to reduce costs and increase the use of clean energy technologies. Dealing with the flipside of moving away from dirty coal and toward clean power sources, the budget recognizes the need to invest in communities facing an economic transition as a result. Climate resilience and preparedness was also highlighted with a statement that sea level rise and more frequent and extreme weather will strain the Federal Budget.  $400 million is proposed for the National Flood Insurance Program Risk Mapping efforts, an increase of $184 million. $20 million would also go towards a Climate Literacy Toolkit for communities to plan, implement, and adapt to extreme weather. Looking forward to UN climate negotiations in Paris, the budget expects $1.29 billion in spending on international climate programs, including $500 million to help launch a new contribution to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, to leverage public and private finances to developing countries most at risk due to climate change. Let’s take a look into our crystal ball The plan explicitly states that climate action will save money in the long run. It explains that the Federal Government has incurred over $300 billion in direct costs, over the past decade, due to extreme weather, fire, insurance, health, natural security and species loss. But getting Republicans on board—even for small increases in a climate action budget—will prove difficult. There is another important piece to this—the budget is a proposal. It will now be fought over in the Republican majority Congress, or ignored all together. Either way, the Obama administration is proving its commitment to battle climate change and setting the tone for the 2016 Presidential election. With climate challenges facing the nation, the budget is a call to action for our policymakers and government officials. It builds a personal sense of commitment to take responsibility and be leaders to ensure a safer planet. Obama has sent a message to us all:  the government needs to get on board with climate action.