Energy & Environment

Administration pitches economic benefits of fighting climate change

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The Obama administration is putting economics front and center in its fight for climate regulations, trying to show what it says are the costs of inaction and the benefits of rules.

The Environmental Protection Agency will focus its efforts in the coming weeks on dollars and cents as it promotes its June proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

{mosads}That will be the main topic of a speech EPA head Gina McCarthy gives Thursday at a policy forum hosted by Resources for the Future, an environmental policy think tank.

In the speech, McCarthy will argue not just that climate change will mean economic ruin if it goes unchecked, but also that the power plant emissions rule would bring economic development and jobs that would not occur otherwise.

The EPA’s efforts align with those of other Obama administration officials in recent days, who similarly warned of the perils of climate change in their purviews if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.

Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, spoke about it last week, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew followed Monday. President Obama also focused on the costs in his speech Tuesday at the United Nations.

The points officials are making, that rising sea levels, rising temperatures and a higher risk of natural disasters would accompany climate change, are not new. But the administration is making a concerted effort to argue that climate change would hit peoples’ wallets hard.

“When it comes to climate change, the most expensive thing we could do is to do nothing,” McCarthy will say, according to her prepared remarks. “We no longer project tomorrow’s impacts; we tally up today’s damages.”

She’ll tell attendees that jobs in clean-energy fields increased 12,500 in the second quarter of this year, showing that environmentally friendly industries are reducing costs, bringing jobs and bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

Previous environmental regulations spurred innovations in various industries, McCarthy will say.

“If you want to talk return on investment, in over four decades, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent, while our economy has tripled in size,” she’ll say.

McCarthy’s speech will be the first in a weeks-long series to go on the economic offense about the power plant rule.

EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds said that, while McCarthy will respond to criticism that environmental rules hurt the economy, the main point of the economic focus is one of offense, not defense.

“We think this policy offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. companies and U.S. industry to grow and to lead when it comes to the international market,” Reynolds said.

He added that the EPA is trying to put climate regulations “in a context that is relevant to everyday Americans, and that means talking about job creation and economic development.”

Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club, welcomed what she characterized as “flipping the script” on business interests that predict economic ruin from the climate rules.

“What we’re finding is that talking about climate impacts and the costs of inaction really is powerful,” she said. “Obviously, everybody’s concerned about pocketbook issues.”

Tags Climate change policy Environment Environmental economics Gina McCarthy Jack Lew Shaun Donovan United States Environmental Protection Agency

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