Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Activists hail Obama emissions plan, but warn more cuts will be needed

President says new rules are ‘single most important step’ US has taken in the fight against global climate change

Environmental activists praised President Barack Obama’s new power plant regulations as the most important step to date in battling climate change but warn that it won't be enough without a dramatic cut in U.S. reliance on fossil fuels.

On Monday, the White House announced new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, requiring states to bring their emissions down to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Obama described the implementation of those new rules as "the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change" in an afternoon press conference.

In a statement on Monday, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune hailed the Obama administration's new Clean Power Plan as “the most significant single action any president has ever taken.”

“With 200 coal plants announced to retire and clean energy growing at record levels, the U.S. is now taking a huge next step to curb dangerous carbon pollution,” he said. “Today is a victory for every American who wants clean air to breath and for the millions of activists and concerned citizens who organized to make sure this day would finally come.”

Another leading climate change group, 350.org, said that power plant regulation by itself is not enough. “Taking on King Coal is the easy part,” 350.org spokesman Jamie Henn wrote in an email. “It’s standing up to Big Oil that will require real courage. That’s why decisions on things like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and Arctic drilling are so important — they’re the true test of climate leadership for this and any future presidents."

Similarly, Greenpeace described the new emissions rules as “an important step forward … [but] woefully inadequate on its own.”

“If the Obama administration is serious about leaving behind both a positive climate legacy and a habitable planet for our children, it will stop the drilling and mining of publicly owned fossil fuels and reject Shell Oil’s dangerous Arctic oil drilling plan,” said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Annie Leonard in a statement.

Electricity production is responsible for nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The next two largest polluters are transportation and industry, which account for 27 percent and 21 percent of such emissions, respectively.

The Obama administration’s new climate rules, which target power plants, will result in a 6 percent reduction in emissions nationwide by 2030, according to calculations by the website Vox.

That may not be enough to keep global warming in check. The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a 2007 report that, in one scenario, “the world’s industrialized nations will have to reduce their emissions an average of 70 to 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050” in order to keep the global temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels.

The White House's Clean Power Plan comes months ahead of a planned United Nations climate change summit in Paris, France, scheduled for December. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded Obama's new power plant standards on Monday, saying that the president had displayed "visionary leadership."

The Clean Power Plan "recognizes the obligation we all have to leave future generations a planet which provides opportunities for sustainable development," Ban Ki-moon spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a Monday press conference.

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter