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About the Author: Sarah Goldfarb serves as DipNote's Associate Editor. Sarah will be providing information from presentations about key climate programs and scientific research at the U.S. Center at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 through December 10, 2010.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing to move forward on a sensible path to address greenhouse gas emissions. At the U.S. Center on December 7, representatives of the EPA highlighted domestic regulatory, programmatic, and voluntary activities that are occurring at the federal level.
Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA, highlighted domestic actions that the EPA is taking to address climate change, particularly greenhouse gases. She first referred to COP-15 Copenhagen in 2009, where the EPA had identified climate change as one of its top priorities for 2010. She said the EPA remains committed to its decision that greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and the environment.
Since Copenhagen, McCarthy said the EPA has accomplished the following: the first greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles; the first proposed greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy truck tailpipes; the first greenhouse gas permitting requirements for smokestacks; the first year of collecting greenhouse gas data under the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program; and increased use of renewable fuels in motor vehicles. In addition, the EPA, with the UN Foundation and international partners, launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
Secretary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in New York on September 21, 2010. The mission of the Alliance is to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.
Through its past experiences, McCarthy said, the EPA has learned that a systematic approach can work for greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. She said that educating consumers is a key goal of the EPA, and they are developing a new fuel economy label that will help consumers choose more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.
McCarthy spoke in depth about the first greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles, which was issued in April 2010 by the EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation. She said that the new national standards are a result of cooperation among automakers, the federal government, and states. The new national standards apply to cars and light trucks, made between 2012 and 2016. The standards not only increase fuel economy by approximately five percent every year, but reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billions barrels of oil.
McCarthy noted other EPA goals, including reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution added to the atmosphere. Moving forward, McCarthy said the EPA must establish a series of regulations that will require the electricity generating industry to become much cleaner. She also discussed other power sector actions on the EPA agenda: addressing ozone and particle pollution that travels across state lines; reducing hazardous air pollutants, such as mercury, from electric utilities; and setting emissions standards for electric utilities for particles pollution, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants.
McCarthy said she is proud of how far the EPA has come and where they are going. She said, "While we look forward in the United States to engaging in climate change legislation, it is by no means stopping this administration from taking progressive steps to reduce greenhouse gases as we go into COP-17 in Durban, South Africa."Become a fan of the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science on Facebook and follow all of the action at COP-16. You can find press releases, program events, transcripts, presentations from the U.S. Center and more on state.gov/cop16.