On June 25 2013, President Obama announced the Climate Action Plan to address climate change and put the United States on a trajectory to meet its international commitment of reducing its emissions 17 percent by 2020. The findings of WRI’s flagship report, "Can the U.S. Get There from Here", played a valuable role in influencing the Administration’s decision.

The Challenge

Given prevailing political inertia, there was scant hope in 2012 for any new U.S. legislation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another unwelcome dynamic was that many government officials and influential leaders argued without credible evidence that recent declines in U.S. emissions meant the country was already “on track” to meet its international commitment.

WRI’s Role

WRI responded with its groundbreaking report, which recommended a “Four-Point Plan” to achieve emissions reductions by taking action on existing power plants, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and energy efficiency. A strong outreach and communications effort followed, resulting in extensive media coverage of the report. We also held briefings for high-level Administration officials and enlisted allies in the environmental and business worlds to echo our message and carry our work into the White House.

Our Impact

When the President announced a Climate Action Plan, it included key elements of WRI’s “Four Point Plan” and other measures to reduce carbon dioxide pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. His speech announcing the Plan was the clearest statement by a U.S. President of his intent to use the Administration’s existing legal authority under the Clean Air Act and other enacted legislation to reduce GHG emissions.

Although implementation of the Plan in the coming months and years will determine its success, the Plan itself represents the most substantial and comprehensive approach to addressing domestic GHG emissions since the defeat of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. It also sent a clear signal to the international community that the United States is prepared to take significant actions to reduce its GHG emissions – without Congress, if need be – and be a more constructive partner in international negotiations.