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Obama’s final Clean Power Plan makes a difference

4th August 2015

President Obama announced on Monday, 3 August 2015, 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 in 2030 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,, +49 173 715 2279
Hanna Fekete, NewClimate Institute,, +49 176 960 898 19