Behind the new environmental plans unveiled in the U.S., China and India

This week, the EPA unveiled new rules to reduce polluting gasses emitted by U.S. factories and cars; India announced a $2 trillion plan to reduce its carbon emissions over the next 15 years; and China also released a new plan. Naveena Sadasivam of Inside Climate News joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the developments.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    This past week, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new rules to reduce smog by limiting the polluting gases emitted by U.S. factories and cars.

    Also, India, the world's third largest air polluter, after the U.S. and China, announced a $2.5 trillion plan to reduce its carbon emissions over the next 15 years. China has a new plan as well.

    Joining me here in the studio to discuss these developments is Naveena Sadasivam from InsideClimate News.

    So, first, the new smog rules, there was tension there. The environmentalists wanted to decrease it much lower. Industry wanted to leave it the same. What did the EPA do?

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM, InsideClimate News:

    So, the EPA is trying very hard to walk a fine line between doing what it's mandated to do, which is protect air quality and improve public health for Americans, while also ensuring that the costs for the industry aren't onerous.

    And so what they have ended up doing is setting the standard at 70 parts per billion, which was on the weaker side of what its own scientists had recommended.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK.

    So, parts per billion, just to try to put that in perspective, does that really matter, if it goes from 75 to 70 or 70 to 65? The EPA wanted to talk about how many lives it would save and all these different costs. Well, then wouldn't it have been better if they had moved it lower?

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM:

    It would have been.

    In terms of saving lives, I think the difference in the asthma cases were several million between lowering it to 65 parts per billion and 70 parts per billion, and in terms of saving lives as well.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And the industry says it is going to take some time to try and put these — these scrubbers, these filters on these smokestacks, right?

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM:

    Right.

    We have heard from some industry groups saying that they are still struggling to meet the 2008 standards that were set.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK.

    Another kind of piece of news that started to cross the wires is, both China and India in the past couple of weeks have said, here are our plans for tackling climate change. Do these declarations these matter?

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM:

    They do.

    They are quite substantial. They're significant emissions reductions. But I think, at the same time, we need to remember that they are nowhere close to what we need to actually stave off some of the worst effects of climate change. Scientists are saying we need to keep temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius.

    And the climate pledges that have been submitted so far — I mean, over 140 countries have submitted these pledges, and depending on the analysis that you look at, they're only down to about 2.7 to 3.5 degrees Celsius. So we still have a long way to go.

    But what India and China's pledges do is that they give the international community sort of momentum going into the Paris talks. You know, the signs are all there that we will have a pretty strong agreement at the end of the year.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And where does the U.S. stand in this, and how does it help in this — in these talks?

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM:

    So, the U.S. itself sort of started off by taking the lead on this issue.

    For a long time, developing countries were saying that if the U.S. is not taking the lead, if the developed countries are not taking the lead, well, you know, there is no point in us stepping up, because we are not the creators of this problem.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right.

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM:

    But the U.S. has taken — in the last few years, we have seen it release the Clean Power Plan, which is aiming to cut carbon pollution from power plants.

    And so that sent a very strong signal that it was serious about making commitments to attacking climate change.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Naveena Sadasivam from InsideClimate News, thanks so much for joining us.

  • NAVEENA SADASIVAM:

    Thanks for having me.

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