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  • The President: Well, good afternoon, everybody.

  • Audience: Good afternoon.

  • The President: Gina, I want to thank you not just for the

  • introduction, but for the incredible work that you and

  • your team have been doing -- not just on this issue,

  • but on generally making sure that we've got clean air,

  • clean water, a great future for our kids.

  • I want to thank all the members of Congress who

  • are here, as well, who have been fighting this issue,

  • and sometimes at great odds with others,

  • but are willing to take on what is going to be one of the key

  • challenges of our lifetimes and future generations.

  • I want to thank our Surgeon General,

  • who's just been doing outstanding work

  • and is helping to make the connection between this

  • critical issue and the health of our families.

  • Over the past six and a half years,

  • we've taken on some of the toughest challenges of our time

  • -- from rebuilding our economy after a devastating recession,

  • to ending our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing

  • almost all of our troops home, to strengthening our

  • security through tough and principled diplomacy.

  • But I am convinced that no challenge poses a greater

  • threat to our future and future generations than

  • a changing climate.

  • And that's what brings us here today.

  • Now, not everyone here is a scientist --

  • (laughter)

  • -- but some of you are among the best scientists

  • in the world.

  • And what you and your colleagues have been

  • showing us for years now is that human activities

  • are changing the climate in dangerous ways.

  • Levels of carbon dioxide, which heats up our atmosphere,

  • are higher than they've been in 800,000 years;

  • 2014 was the planet's warmest year on record.

  • And we've been setting a lot of records in terms

  • of warmest years over the last decade.

  • One year doesn't make a trend, but 14

  • of the 15 warmest years on record have fallen

  • within the first 15 years of this century.

  • Climate change is no longer just about the future that

  • we're predicting for our children or our grandchildren;

  • it's about the reality that we're living with

  • every day, right now.

  • The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks

  • to our national security.

  • While we can't say any single weather event is entirely

  • caused by climate change, we've seen stronger storms,

  • deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons.

  • Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide.

  • Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic

  • to make the biggest change in its atlas since

  • the Soviet Union broke apart.

  • Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have

  • more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans

  • at greater risk of landing in the hospital.

  • As one of America's governors has said,

  • "We're the first generation to feel the impact

  • of climate change and the last generation that can

  • do something about it."

  • And that's why I committed the United States

  • to leading the world on this challenge, because

  • I believe there is such a thing as being too late.

  • Most of the issues that I deal with -- and I deal with some

  • tough issues that cross my desk -- by definition,

  • I don't deal with issues if they're easy to solve

  • because somebody else has already solved them.

  • And some of them are grim.

  • Some of them are heartbreaking.

  • Some of them are hard.

  • Some of them are frustrating.

  • But most of the time, the issues we deal with are ones that are

  • temporally bound and we can anticipate things getting

  • better if we just kind of plug away at it,

  • even incrementally.

  • But this is one of those rare issues -- because of its

  • magnitude, because of its scope -- that if we don't get

  • it right we may not be able to reverse,

  • and we may not be able to adapt sufficiently.

  • There is such a thing as being too late when

  • it comes to climate change.

  • (applause)

  • Now, that shouldn't make us hopeless;

  • it's not as if there's nothing we can do about it.

  • We can take action.

  • Over the past several years, America has been working

  • to use less dirty energy, more clean energy,

  • waste less energy throughout our economy.

  • We've set new fuel economy standards that mean our cars

  • will go twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle

  • of the next decade.

  • Combined with lower gas prices, these standards are on pace

  • to save drivers an average of $700 at the pump this year.

  • We doubled down on our investment in renewable energy.

  • We're generating three times as much wind power,

  • 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008.

  • These steps are making a difference.

  • Over the past decade, even as our economy has continued

  • to grow, the United States has cut our total carbon

  • pollution more than any other nation on Earth.

  • (applause)

  • That's the good news.

  • But I am here to say that if we want to protect our

  • economy and our security and our children's health,

  • we're going to have to do more.

  • The science tells us we have to do more.

  • This has been our focus these past six years.

  • And it's particularly going to be our focus this month.

  • In Nevada, later in August, I'll talk about the extraordinary

  • progress we've made in generating clean energy --

  • and the jobs that come with it -- and how we can

  • boost that even further.

  • I'll also be the first American President to visit

  • the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already

  • seen their communities devastated by melting ice

  • and rising oceans, the impact on marine life.

  • We're going to talk about what the world needs

  • to do together to prevent the worst impacts

  • of climate change before it's too late.

  • And today, we're here to announce America's Clean Power

  • Plan -- a plan two years in the making,

  • and the single most important step America has ever taken

  • in the fight against global climate change.

  • (applause)

  • Right now, our power plants are the source

  • of about a third of America's carbon pollution.

  • That's more pollution than our cars,

  • our airplanes and our homes generate combined.

  • That pollution contributes to climate change,

  • which degrades the air our kids breathe.

  • But there have never been federal limits on the amount

  • of carbon that power plants can dump into the air.

  • Think about that.

  • We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury

  • and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water --

  • and we're better off for it.

  • But existing power plants can still dump unlimited

  • amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air.

  • For the sake of our kids and the health and safety

  • of all Americans, that has to change.

  • For the sake of the planet, that has to change.

  • So, two years ago, I directed Gina and the Environmental

  • Protection Agency to take on this challenge.

  • And today, after working with states and cities and power

  • companies, the EPA is setting the first-ever

  • nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping

  • of carbon pollution from power plants.

  • (applause)

  • Here's how it works.

  • Over the next few years, each state will have the chance

  • to put together its own plan for reducing emissions --

  • because every state has a different energy mix.

  • Some generate more of their power from renewables;

  • some from natural gas, or nuclear, or coal.

  • And this plan reflects the fact that not

  • everybody is starting in the same place.

  • So we're giving states the time and the flexibility they

  • need to cut pollution in a way that works for them.

  • And we'll reward the states that take action sooner

  • instead of later -- because time is not on our side here.

  • As states work to meet their targets,

  • they can build on the progress that our

  • communities and businesses are already making.

  • A lot of power companies have already begun modernizing

  • their plants, reducing their emissions --

  • and by the way, creating new jobs in the process.

  • Nearly a dozen states have already set up their own

  • market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution.

  • About half of our states have set energy efficiency targets.

  • More than 35 have set renewable energy targets.

  • Over 1,000 mayors have signed an agreement to cut carbon

  • pollution in their cities.

  • And last week, 13 of our biggest companies,

  • including UPS and Walmart and GM, made bold,

  • new commitments to cut their emissions and deploy

  • more clean energy.

  • So the idea of setting standards and cutting carbon

  • pollution is not new.

  • It's not radical.

  • What is new is that, starting today,

  • Washington is starting to catch up with the vison

  • of the rest of the country.

  • And by setting these standards, we can actually

  • speed up our transition to a cleaner, safer future.

  • With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030,

  • carbon pollution from our power plants will

  • be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago.

  • And the nerdier way to say that is that we'll

  • be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution

  • out of our atmosphere.

  • (applause)

  • The simpler, layman's way of saying that

  • is it's like cutting every ounce of emission due

  • to electricity from 108 million American homes.

  • Or it's the equivalent of taking 166 million cars

  • off the road.

  • By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power

  • plant emissions by nearly 90 percent -- and thanks to this

  • plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among

  • our children each year.

  • (applause)

  • And by combining this with greater investment in our

  • booming clean energy sector, and smarter investments in energy

  • efficiency, and by working with the world to achieve a climate

  • agreement by the end of this year, we can do more to slow,

  • and maybe even eventually stop, the carbon pollution

  • that's doing so much harm to our climate.

  • So this is the right thing to do.

  • I want to thank, again, Gina and her team for doing

  • it the right way.

  • Over the longest engagement process in EPA history,

  • they fielded more than 4 million public comments;

  • they worked with states, they worked with power companies,

  • and environmental groups, and faith groups,

  • and people across our country to make sure that what we were

  • doing was realistic and achievable, but still ambitious.

  • And some of those people are with us here today.

  • So, Tanya Brown -- Tanya, wave, go ahead -- there's Tanya.

  • (applause)

  • Tanya Brown has joined up with moms across

  • America to spread the word about the dangers

  • climate change pose to the health of our children --

  • including Tanya's daughter, Sanaa.

  • There's Sanaa, right there.

  • Dr. Sumita Khatri has spent her career researching

  • the health impacts of pollution at the Cleveland Clinic,

  • and helping families whose lives are impacted

  • every single day.

  • Doctor, thank you.

  • (applause)

  • Sister Joan Marie Steadman has helped rally

  • Catholic women across America to take on climate.

  • Sister, thank you so much for your leadership.

  • (applause)

  • And she's got a pretty important guy on her side --

  • as Pope Francis made clear in his encyclical this summer,

  • taking a stand against climate change is a moral obligation.

  • And Sister Steadman is living up to that obligation

  • every single day.

  • Now, let's be clear.

  • There will be critics of what we're trying to do.

  • There will be cynics that say it cannot be done.

  • Long before the details of this Clean Power Plan were

  • even decided, the special interests and their allies

  • in Congress were already mobilizing to oppose

  • it with everything they've got.

  • They will claim that this plan will cost you money --

  • even though this plan, the analysis shows,

  • will ultimately save the average American nearly

  • $85 a year on their energy bills.

  • They'll claim we need to slash our investments

  • in clean energy, it's a waste of money -- even though

  • they're happy to spend billions of dollars a year