President Obama Speaks at Georgetown, Announces New Climate Change Plan

June 26, 2013 — Citing “the overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements … that the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it,” President Barack Obama laid out his plan to address climate change and curb its effects.

Speaking from the steps of the “Old North” building on Georgetown University’s main campus on June 25, Obama said he was instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. His plan also includes ending tax breaks for oil companies and extending them to clean energy companies. 

“The president’s speech offered exactly what many of us have been waiting to hear from him,” said Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling, a former top EPA official under Obama and lead author of the winning brief in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Supreme Court held that the Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. “In particular, by extending emissions limits to existing power plants, he’s taking dead aim at the most severe environmental problem facing the planet.”

The president’s speech was also closely watched by those at the Georgetown Climate Center, led by executive director and visiting professor Vicki Arroyo (L’94). The nonpartisan center, launched here in 2009, seeks to advance effective climate, energy and transportation policies in the United States, policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt to climate change.

“This is an area in which Georgetown is deeply engaged — through our work in climate research and policy, environmental scholarship and sustainability initiatives,” said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. “We are bringing our expertise in the environment to all aspects of this conversation — scientific research, national and state policy, community practices, grassroots efforts and public and private partnerships.”

On Monday, the Georgetown Climate Center released polling data showing strong public support from both Democrats and Republicans for Environmental Protection Agency action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both new and existing power plants. According to the data, 87 percent of Americans support EPA action on the issue, including 78 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats. Only 13 percent of Americans want Congress to prevent the EPA from enforcing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to work with the Administration on promoting clean energy and building resilient communities,” Arroyo said. “The polling that we are releasing … shows that Americans want the Administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and to take steps to protect future generations from the worst climate change impacts.”

A video of the president’s speech can be seen here.

A detailed memo containing poll results is available here.


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