Taking action on climate change will be helpful, not hurtful, for the economy.
That’s according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy, who spoke in a public forum on September 24, and the results of a number of recent climate reports.
The forum was hosted by Resources for the Future, a nonprofit organisation that conducts economic and social research on environmental issues. There, McCarthy spoke on the United States’ role as a world leader in climate change action and the ways such action will boost the nation’s coffers.
“The bottom line is: We don’t act despite the economy, we act because of the economy,” McCarthy said.
Her speech came just two days after the United Nations’ 2014 Climate Change Summit, in which leaders from around the world convened to discuss their progress in cutting emissions, investing in renewable energies, and preserving natural resources, as well as their goals for continuing to address climate change in the future.
There, Pres. Obama described the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which will crack down on carbon emissions from energy plants, as well as his newly announced plan to slash hydrofluorocarbons, environmentally harmful chemicals that help drive global warming.
McCarthy added at the forum that investment in wind and solar energy creates “thousands of jobs that cannot be shipped overseas,” and taking action against climate change will reduce the economic threats inherent in natural disasters, extreme weather events, and other events brought on by global warming.
Some states have expressed concerns that the EPA is asking for too much too soon, particularly when it comes to the Clean Power Plan’s state-based emissions reductions proposals. But McCarthy insisted at the forum that the long-term benefits will be well worth the effort.
“Every dollar we invest in the Clean Power Plan will return seven dollars in health benefits,” she said. “One dollar to make 7 dollars. In 2030, total climate and health benefits will reach up to 93 billion dollars.”
McCarthy cited a number of recent reports touting the economic benefits of addressing climate change, including a report released by an international commission just last week titled”The New Climate Economy,” which suggests that efforts to tackle climate change could actually promote economic growth, and a new report from the Carbon Disclosure Project proposing that climate change action in cities protects businesses and the capital they generate.
But amidst complaints about the heavy-handedness of the EPA’s proposal, others have argued that the US still isn’t doing enough of its share. In a statement following Obama’s address to the UN Tuesday, environmentalist and 350.org cofounder Bill McKibben said, “Today’s boasts about his climate efforts ring hollow in the face of America passing Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil and gas producer. We hope that when ‘next year’ comes and he proposes actual targets, they will start to reverse the trend.”
Still, McCarthy remains optimistic about the US’s role in the global effort to fight climate change. “We know a global problem needs a global solution,” she said. “Although we can’t act for other nations, when the United States of America leads, other nations follow.”