COPENHAGEN, Denmark, December 15, 2009 (ENS) – Often critical of government officials for their failure to protect the environment, one of the largest U.S. environmental groups had praise today for President Barack Obama as he heads to the climate summit in Copenhagen.
“This is an extraordinary record of achievement,” Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said today in Copenhagen, where she is leading NRDC’s delegation to the summit. “In its first 11 months, this administration has moved swiftly and effectively to protect our environment and safeguard the health of our citizens.”
Soon after his election, Obama built an experienced, diverse and high-quality team of White House advisers, cabinet members and agency staff to focus on his environmental agenda, Beinecke said, adding, “From the start, Obama’s team set the right tone for the environmental stewardship the country so urgently needs.”
Obama moved quickly to put clean energy and climate protection at the top of what Beinecke called “an assertive agenda.”
The administration followed-up on the 2007 Supreme Court ruling and declared carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases a threat to public health; mandated that major facilities publicly report carbon emissions beginning early next year; and proposed the first-ever greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, a measure expected to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
President Obama pushed to secure House approval of historic clean energy and climate legislation in June and is working to advance Senate backing of companion legislation in 2010.
He also worked with Congress to make more than $50 billion available for renewable energy investments and improvement in the energy efficiency of homes, cars and workplaces. This includes a historic investment of $3.4 billion to modernize the energy grid by improving transmission and reducing the amount of power wasted. This funding is creating jobs and putting the country on the path to a clean energy economy – improving energy security and national security at the same time.
In the lead-up to Copenhagen, he set a goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. He worked closely with leaders of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and other countries to secure pledges aimed at curbing the growth of such emissions worldwide.
Beinecke said, “His climate envoy, Todd Stern, is pressing these countries to turn promises into action in Copenhagen.”
Obama signed an executive order for federal agencies to set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020, increase energy efficiency and other important measures to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment.
Beyond clean energy and climate change, the administration has pursued a broad environmental agenda with a number of important actions already taken and precedents set, said Beinecke.
The administration has:
- Advanced efforts to secure a global treaty to cut mercury pollution, reversing years of U.S. opposition.
- Initiated strategic partnerships with China, India and Latin American countries to expand international cooperation on clean energy goals.
- Created an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to develop a national strategy to protect and restore ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.
- Put in place new standards to reduce toxic mercury and soot emissions from power plants that burn coal and oil.
- Initiated a review of the toxicity of atrazine, a widely used herbicide that is pervasive in water supplies in Midwestern states.
- Blocked what would have been the largest mountaintop removal coal mining operation in Appalachia, and put 79 other such projects on hold, pending environmental review.
- Canceled the sale of 77 oil and gas leases in Red Rock Canyon wilderness in Utah.
“More work remains to be done to realize the President’s vision of a prosperous, secure and sustainable future for our country and the world,” Beinecke said. “Americans can be proud of the promising start this President has made and of the exceptional team he’s put together to advance this vital work.”
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