Hailed by Al Gore as “the best address on climate by any president ever”, Obama’s speech on Tuesday set out a clear commitment to lowering America’s greenhouse gas emissions
President Obama announced a number of significant policies, including plans to give the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) new powers to curb emissions from power stations.
He also suggested that the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline project would not go ahead if its net effects on climate pollution are deemed too high.
Another significant announcement regarded the launch of the Climate Data Initiative.
This builds on May’s Open Data Executive Order and will create a toolkit of data-driven solutions to combat climate change, for example risk-analysis for coastal areas.
Another tool could be an open data platform to measure and manage environmental risk in global supply chains – such as amee is building.
High level endorsement of open data projects and recognition of the crucial role they can play in mitigating against climate change is greatly encouraging.
But is it enough?
The endorsement of fracking and nuclear isn’t what every environmentalist would like to hear when it comes to energy policy.
But considering only 28% of Americans think that global warming should be a presidential priority this year, Obama’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020 demonstrates strong leadership.
The President also indicated that he would be willing to bypass Congress to achieve his climate policies if necessary.
While many Republicans strongly oppose the President’s plans, some commentators are suggesting that there’s little they can do to oppose them, with the final vote on the EPA rules not expected for years.
Although there’s always a risk that a future Republican president will reverse the present progress, by that point the increasingly frequent and devastating effects of climate change may have converted a few more sceptics.