Obama: USA will lead world on climate change

27 January 2009

President Barack Obama has vowed that the USA will lead the world in the battle against climate change, and has signed orders aimed at reducing the country's dependence on imported oil and placing a "new energy economy" at the heart of US energy policy.

Obama signing (Image: whitehouse.gov)
President Obama signs energy memoranda (Image: whitehouse.gov)


"No single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy," Obama said in a White House announcement before signing two Presidential Memoranda aimed at getting the country on the path to energy independence. The USA's dependence on oil "bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation, and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism," as well as stifling innovation and competition, he said, dangers that were compounded by the threat of climate change.

Climate change, if unchecked, could result in violent conflict, terrible storms, shrinking coastlines and irreversible catastrophe, the US President said. "These are the facts and they are well known to the American people," he said. "Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action… Now America has arrived at a crossroads… It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence. For the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change."

The country would develop new energy, set new fuel efficiency standards and address greenhouse emissions, Obama said. The first step would be to create a new energy economy, reversing dependence on imported oil and doubling alternative energy capacity over the next three years. The greening of the transport sector would be the second step, with new standards for fuel-efficient cars introduced for 2011 models. Thirdly, the federal government would support states in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - some states, such as California, which have in made their own attempts to forge ahead with greenhouse emissions limits have found their way barred under the previous administration.

"My administration will not deny facts, we will be guided by them," Obama said, and pledged that the USA would be at the forefront of global effort required to protect the climate. "It's time for America to lead, because this moment of peril must be turned into one of progress," he said.

Even before his inauguration, President Obama has been clear in his aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy, with nuclear included in the energy mix, sentiments echoed by his newly appointed Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Just prior to his formal appointment as Energy Secretary, Chu recently told the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that Obama's plans for energy indepence included a continued commitment to nuclear energy, along with a long-term plan for radioactive waste management and disposal.