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  1. Opinion

Editorial: Obama charts more robust effort to fight climate change

The carbon-cutting plan that President Barack Obama announced Monday is good news for consumers, the environment, public health and the economy. The measure gives states and the energy sector the certainty they need to move toward cleaner energy sources, and it provides a model as world leaders prepare to gather in Paris in December to craft a larger approach to climate change. As a low-lying coastal state, Florida has every reason to work with the Obama administration on adopting a viable plan rather than waging another politically charged legal battle against the president.

The much-anticipated rules on curbing the release of global-warming greenhouse gases are tougher than the draft proposals released last year. Obama's Clean Power Plan calls for the nation's power plants to cut emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, more ambitious than the 30 percent target floated earlier. And it seeks to accelerate a shift in the nation's energy mix by moving states to invest more quickly in renewable energy sources, with the goal of using wind, solar and other like-minded clean energy to generate 28 percent of the nation's demand over the next 15 years.

By imposing this first-ever national standard on emissions from power plants, the nation's single largest source of carbon pollution, the administration is tackling a root cause of global warming head-on and setting a reasonable timetable for action. The rule will assign a target for individual states, and the states can work alone or with others to lower emissions in a variety of ways, from closing old coal-fired plants to investing in clean technology and making buildings more energy-efficient.

In Florida, where power plants released 108 million metric tons of carbon pollution in 2013, the cuts could especially help those suffering from asthma, allergies and other illnesses. With Tampa, Miami and other Florida cities already experiencing a surge in the number of 95-degree days, removing these pollutants will result in cleaner air for people, livestock and crops. Warming also presents a serious threat to coastal flood control, as rises in sea levels endanger roads, public works, the drinking water supply and billions of dollars in private property.

Industry groups, coal states and Republican leaders have already signalled they intend to fight the rules in court, as states have done with other Obama-era environmental measures. That is only moving backward on public health and innovation. As prices for solar and other renewables drop, and as consumers demand more energy-efficient vehicles and homes, the move away from dirty fuel is feeding an entirely new economic sector. The White House estimates that Florida, which has cut its power-sector carbon pollution by 10 percent since 2008, will save energy and money and also generate new jobs in the renewable sector. And the rules give states the flexibility to find local solutions. By putting off the compliance deadline until 2022, two years later than earlier proposed, the administration has demonstrated it wants to work in partnership with the states, rather than to force a cookie-cutter approach nationwide.

The rules put the nation's energy strategy on a sound course, and they give industry the predictability any enterprise needs to make investments and plan for the future. The United States also can rally the world community at the December meeting in Paris to take bold steps in addressing climate change in their home countries. Given how the natural environment shapes livelihoods in Florida, the state should lead the way in reaching these cuts instead of acting like an obstructionist. Presidential candidates, including most of the Republicans who are criticizing the administration's rule, should explain their proposals for dealing with climate change instead of denying it exists.