June 3, 2014

Reducing Carbon Emissions Helps Create Healthier Communities

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coal power plant

As President Obama said in this year’s State of the Union address, “climate change is a fact.” And he was right.  Recent extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, record setting heat waves, wildfires, and droughts remind us of our vulnerability to a changing climate and its effects on our daily lives. Addressing the issue of climate change has been a top priority for President Obama, as he believes we have a moral obligation to leave our children a cleaner and safer planet.

At HUD, we share the President’s vision because creating safe, sustainable and resilient communities is part of our mandate. Extreme weather events and climate change jeopardize our mission.  They also hurt the individuals we are responsible for protecting—children, seniors, and low-income groups—those most sensitive to abrupt change.  When we think back to Hurricane Sandy, when more than 650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, we recognize the need to help communities become more resilient to these increasingly frequent and severe challenges.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrated a commitment to creating healthy and safe communities by announcing the Clean Power Plan, which will help cut carbon pollution nationwide from power plants by approximately 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Currently, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants.  But right now, there are no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe.Yesterday’s announcement is significant because EPA is proposing a national framework that builds on the work states, cities and companies already are doing to reduce carbon pollution while ensuring states have flexibility to determine how best to meet reduction targets. As an added benefit, the Plan will stimulate increased energy efficiency and innovation in renewable energy that will create U.S. jobs and help clean up our air through the modernization of our power plants.   Not only will this be a boost to air quality and our safety and health, it will help create new jobs in clean energy production and promote energy efficiency in our nation’s homes and businesses.

At HUD, we work every day to “create strong, sustain­able, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,”—and the new EPA guidelines will help us achieve those goals. HUD is committed to reducing carbon emissions and helping to implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, released one year ago, through programs like the Better Building Challenge, which complement the EPA guidelines. In this example, U.S multifamily housing owners, universities, and state and local governments have committed to reducing the energy used across their building portfolios by 20 percent or more by 2020.  Better Building Challenge partners are on track to meet the President’s goal by cutting energy use by 2.5 percent annually, equivalent to about $58 million in energy savings per year. That is real progress.

We believe our collective actions can make a real difference in stabilizing climate change and in ensuring we leave our children the best possible chance for a healthy and prosperous life.

Harriet Tregoning is the Director of the Office of Economic Resilience.

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