On June 25, 2013, President Obama released his long-awaited Climate Action Plan as a follow-up to his earlier vow to make climate change a central issue during his second term. The plan lays out how the administration intends to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Climate change is addressed in the plan through three "pillars" – cutting carbon pollution, preparing the U.S. for the impact of climate change, and leading international efforts to combat climate change. Specific initiatives covered in the plan include:

  • Establishing carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants.
  • Directing the Department of Interior to permit an increasing amount of renewable production on public lands.
  • Improving energy efficiency in commercial, industrial and multi-family buildings by 20 percent.
  • Increasing fuel economy standards for 2018 and beyond.
  • Reducing hydrofluorocarbon and methane pollution.
  • Encouraging climate-resilient development and infrastructure.
  • Developing and promoting best practices in agriculture for dealing with drought and wildfires.
  • Working with the international community to advance initiatives to combat climate change.

The steps outlined in the plan, which will impact businesses, industries and consumers across the country, are expected through executive order or rulemakings from various federal agencies.

Exactly how that will play out remains to be seen, however, as we fully expect to see Congress react in a variety of ways to the different components of the action plan. Bipartisan legislative initiatives like energy efficiency legislation may be bolstered by the administration's intentions, while other initiatives such as carbon pollution standards for utilities will likely be the subject of opposition as Congress looks for opportunities to make its will known.