Obama’s final clean power plan makes a difference

President Obama announced on Monday the final version of the clean power plan that is to reduce emissions from power plants significantly. While it is an update of the plan already announced in 2014, it still has a significant effect:

  • The new plan is more ambitious than the earlier versions. The envisaged reductions increased from 30% to 32% below 2005 levels in 2030.
  • The envisaged share of renewables in electricity generation increased from 16 to 20% in 2030.
  • We calculate additional reductions of 50 MtCO2e due to the change, which is not much compared to the overall emissions of the USA, but which is still remarkable, as governments tend to water down plans after their initial announcement, not strengthen them. In particular, the increased share of renewables shows the more optimistic view on the potential developments compared to earlier versions.
  • The final Clean Power Plan (CPP) is an important step towards meeting the international contribution of the USA to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28% below 2005 in 2025, which the CAT rates as “medium.” But the CPP alone will not be sufficient to meet this target. Additional policies need to be implemented, many of which are in the planning process.
  • Although Obama faces criticism for the plan, it takes immediate effect as an executive order. Even if the political opposition opposes the plan it will only be abandoned if court cases are successful. In our calculation, the updated plan makes a difference of 530 MtCO2e in 2030 compared to a scenario without the Clean Power Plan, reducing the expected emissions of the USA in 2030 by roughly 10 percent. 
  • The signals by Obama for the negotiations on a new climate agreement are strong. Even if the current national target and the plans are not a sufficient contribution to hold global temperature increase below 2°C. It shows that the world’s second largest emitter is taking action at home to reduce emissions, which gives the USA a stronger position and can move other countries to act as well.
  • The CAT can now put the US CPP into part of its “current  policies” scenario, which calculates emissions from policies in place, rather than planned or pledged. 


Niklas Höhne, NewClimate Institute,  [email protected], +49 173 715 2279
Hanna Fekete, NewClimate Institute, [email protected], +49 176 960 898 19
The Climate Action Tracker is an independent, science-based assessment that tracks government action on climate, meaasuring it against the globally-agreed warming limit of 2˚C.  he emission reduction commitments and actions of countries.  It is a joint project of the following organisations:
Climate Analytics
Climate Analytics is a non-profit organization based in Potsdam, Germany. It has been established to synthesize climate science and policy research that is relevant for international climate policy negotiations. It aims to provide scientific, policy and analytical support for Small Island States (SIDS) and the least developed country group (LDCs) negotiators, as well as non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders in the ‘post-2012’ negotiations. Furthermore, it assists in building in-house capacity within SIDS and LDCs. Contact: Dr. h.c. Bill Hare, +49 160 908 62463
Ecofys – Experts in Energy 
Established in 1984 with the mission of achieving “sustainable energy for everyone”, Ecofys has become the leading expert in renewable energy, energy & carbon efficiency, energy systems & markets as well as energy & climate policy. The unique synergy between those areas of expertise is the key to its success. Ecofys creates smart, effective, practical and sustainable solutions for and with public and corporate clients all over the world. With offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and the US, Ecofys employs over 250 experts dedicated to solving energy and climate challenges. Contact: Prof Kornelis Blok, +31 6 558 667 36

NewClimate Institute
NewCLimate Institute is a non-profit institute established in 2014. NewClimate Institute supports research and implementation of action against climate change around the globe, covering the topics international climate negotiations, tracking climate action, climate and development, climate finance and carbon market mechanisms. NewClimate Institute aims at connecting up-to-date research with the real world decision making processes. Contact: Dr. Niklas Höhne, +49 173 715 2279
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
The PIK conducts research into global climate change and issues of sustainable development. Set up in 1992, the Institute is regarded as a pioneer in interdisciplinary research and as one of the world's leading establishments in this field. Scientists, economists and social scientists work together, investigating how the earth is changing as a system, studying the ecological, economic and social consequences of climate change, and assessing which strategies are appropriate for sustainable development. Contact: Dr. Louise Jeffery, [email protected]

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