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For Immediate Release, June 20, 2013

Contact: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351,

Obama's New Climate Plan Must Cap Greenhouse Pollution

Bold Action Needed As Scientists Warn of Chaotic Weather, Extreme Warming

WASHINGTON— As President Obama gears up to announce a new climate plan, the Center for Biological Diversity today called on the White House to use the Clean Air Act to establish a national pollution cap for carbon dioxide. The Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign has brought together cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami to urge bold federal action against global warming and greenhouse gas pollution.

“President Obama has to go big against carbon pollution because he’s running out of time to protect American communities from climate chaos,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel. “The White House can’t offer feel-good half-measures. A national carbon cap is the president’s best bet for preventing climate change’s worst effects.”

Over the past two years, more than 60 city councils representing 21 million people have joined the Clean Air Cities campaign, which calls on the president to match his stirring rhetoric with tough-minded action under the Clean Air Act to fight the climate crisis that has deepened dramatically during his time in office.

Climate change is already increasing the risk of extreme weather and could warm the United States by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 unless carbon pollution is cut dramatically, according to the draft National Climate Assessment, a federal scientific report released earlier this year.

“Miami will be ground zero for climate change’s most harmful effects, so we are calling on the federal government to use the Clean Air Act to protect coastal cities,” said Marc D. Sarnoff, vice-chairman of the City of Miami Commission.

“Los Angeles supports the Clean Air Act, and we want to see this landmark environmental law used to tackle greenhouse gas pollution,” said Paul Koretz, a Los Angeles city councilmember. “Our city has been a leader in the fight against climate change, and we’re proud to back federal efforts to reduce global warming hazards.”

A carbon cap would not require new legislation. The Center is urging the Obama administration to declare carbon dioxide a “criteria pollutant” under the Clean Air Act and set a national pollution cap for CO2 at no greater than 350 parts per million (ppm). Many independent scientists have concluded that atmospheric CO2 levels above 350 ppm will cause catastrophic global warming. The Center is also urging pollution caps for six other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide.

The EPA has already set caps on other air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, lead and ozone. These national pollution caps are known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Once the safe level has been scientifically established, each of the 50 states develops strategies to attain the prescribed pollution caps.

The Clean Air Act was designed to deal with international pollution problems like that posed by greenhouse gases. Section 179B requires that state pollution-control plans be approved by the EPA if they “would be adequate to attain and maintain the relevant national ambient air quality standards…but for emissions emanating from outside of the United States.”

Another critical choice facing President Obama is whether to approve a key permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would, every day, carry up to 35 million gallons of oil strip-mined from Canada’s “tar sands” — some of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuel on the planet. 

“The president needs to stand strong against Keystone XL’s filthy tar sands, even as he takes action to control power plant pollution,” Snape said. “Allowing this dirty, dangerous pipeline to go forward would fundamentally undermine the fight to ward off climate catastrophe.”

Learn more about the Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign and get the facts about the Clean Air Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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