Forty years ago, scientists at the University of California uncovered a global threat. From deodorants to refrigerators, chemicals in our everyday lives were destroying our ozone layer — Earth’s natural shield against the sun’s cancer-causing radiation.
Our fight to save the ozone layer became a defining moment in American leadership. It was American science that uncovered the problem and American industry that innovated the solution. And now the ozone layer is healing. Our people are safer, and our economy is stronger.
Today, we face the threat of global climate change. The pollution and the problem might be different, but the principle is the same. Once again, the world needs the United States to lead. That’s why last year, President Obama laid out a Climate Action Plan to cut the carbon pollution fueling climate change, build a more resilient nation and lead the global climate fight. And he’s at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York this week to reinforce that commitment.
I’m proud to join the president in delivering a clear message: A world-leading economy depends on a healthy environment and a safe climate. We don’t act despite the economy; we act because of it.
We’ve made tremendous progress this year — from deploying record levels of clean energy, to partnering with the private sector to advance low-carbon technologies. And this past June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from our largest source, power plants.
Climate change supercharges risks to our health and economy, and it’s taxpayers and businesses that pay the price. Fortunately, we can turn our climate challenge into an opportunity to modernize our power sector, lay the foundation for a low-carbon economy, and fuel growth for decades to come. The EPA’s historic fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks are a perfect example of what’s possible. They’re cutting carbon pollution, saving families money at the pump, and fueling a resurgent auto industry that’s added more than 250,000 jobs since 2009. The number of cars coming off American assembly lines made by American workers just reached its highest level in 12 years.
That same story of energy progress is being written across America. Since President Obama took office, the U.S. uses three times more wind power and 10 times more solar power, which means thousands of jobs. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan follows that trend. We need thousands more American workers in construction, transmission, engineering and more to make cleaner power a reality.
Since our proposal lets states choose the low-carbon path that makes sense for them, we’re sending a powerful signal to the market that pulls investment capital off the shelf and into our clean energy economy. We’ve already received great feedback on our proposal, with more than 750,000 comments from health groups, industry groups, faith groups, parents and more. We want every good idea we can get, so we extended the public comment period through Dec. 1.
Our plan pushes progress already underway in companies, city halls and state capitals nationwide. A new report from the Carbon Disclosure Project shows that major companies like Delta, Google and Disney tack on an internal carbon price to their business decisions, because investors see the cost of carbon pollution and the value of cutting it.
It’s true that climate change needs a global solution. We can’t act for other nations, but when the United States of America leads, other nations follow. We set the pace. We invest, build and sell solutions that other nations need.
Action to reduce pollution doesn’t dull our competitive edge — it sharpens it. Years ago, American chemical companies like DuPont and Honeywell innovated safer chemicals to replace the ones destroying the ozone layer and sold those solutions to the rest of the world. Over the last four decades, the EPA has cut air pollution by 70 percent, while the U.S. economy has tripled in size.
The economy has never been a reason to fear action — it’s a reason to take it. A new study by the New Climate Economy Project finds that cutting carbon pollution could actually mean faster economic growth. Another recent study shows even states that are still skeptical, like Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, would actually see an annual net economic benefit of up to about $16 billion dollars.
American leadership shines brightly because we don’t sacrifice our values to move forward. We don’t bend to the false warnings of those who lack faith in American ingenuity. Today, we have more cars, more people, more jobs, more businesses and less pollution. That’s how we define progress.
When we act on climate, we seize an opportunity to retool and resurge with new technologies, new industries and new jobs. We owe it to our kids not just to act, but to lead. When we do, we’ll leave them a cleaner, safer and opportunity-rich world for generations to come.