President Barack Obama in a 26-hour visit to Berlin commended Germany and other European nations for pioneering the issue of climate change, one he has pledged to make a priority in his second term and called "the global threat of our time." White House officials are saying a new policy announcement regarding the issue could be announced as early as next week, according to the New York Times.
US President Barack Obama speaks in front of the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday June 19, 2013. Appealing for a new citizen activism in the free world, President Barack Obama renewed his call Wednesday to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and to confront climate change, a danger he called "the global threat of our time." In a wide-ranging speech that enumerated a litany of challenges facing the world, Obama said he wanted to reignite the spirit that Berlin displayed when it fought to reunite itself during the Cold War. (Photo: AP/dpa,Marcus Brandt)
“He is serious about making it a second-term priority,” the Times reported White House Coordinator for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal saying at a forum hosted by the magazine The New Republic. “He knows this is a legacy issue.”
Zichal specified that policies could use the regulatory authority given to the EPA to curb pollutants like those from power plants. The Times reported Zichal saying none of the initiatives required new legislation or funding from Congress.
Here's more from the Times:
The electric power sector is responsible for about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and any serious effort to address climate change will require steps to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants from coal-burning power plants.
“The E.P.A. has been working very hard on rules that focus specifically on greenhouse gases from the coal sector,” Ms. Zichal said. “They’re doing a lot of important work in that space.”
The issue of power plant regulation is sensitive because it will most likely make electricity more expensive in many parts of the country and put further stress on the coal industry, which is already suffering from a lack of demand as utilities switch to natural gas, which is cheaper.
If this proposal sounds familiar, it's because coal-fired power plants were given new emission rules in 2011 and last year, but the Times reported the administration missed a deadline to complete it.
Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said this week that Obama will make the case that even though the Berlin Wall came down 23 years ago and the threat of nuclear war has dissipated, the type of activism apparent during the Cold War needs to be applied to such current challenges as climate change, among other issues like counterterrorism and the push for democratic values beyond the United States and Europe.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.