If you ever wonder whether the political process can yield real results for the environment, President Barack Obama has your answer. Having a leader committed to clean energy, climate progress, and protecting our natural heritage in the White House for the past eight years has resulted in major achievements.
While advocates always want more, President Obama's environmental legacy is impressive. It is, along with the accomplishments of the Nixon Administration, the most consequential of any president in our history. Obama leaves a better, cleaner, more sustainable world for all of our kids.
Here's one advocate's view of the president's top 10 environmental accomplishments (in no particular order):
1. National climate progress
His Clean Power Plan was the first ever national limit on carbon pollution from its largest source. It sent a signal to states and utilities, which is now transforming the way we produce energy. The president also used his office to educate Americans about the dangers of climate change with major speeches and TV appearances. He leaned in.
2. An international climate agreement
3. Pollution limits for power plants
The Obama Administration put in place overdue pollution limits for power plant smokestacks. These are major sources of air toxics like mercury, as well sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which lead to smog, soot, and acid rain pollution.
4. Reducing air pollution from oil and gas operations
We now have common sense protections for oil and gas development that avoid waste and protect public health and the environment by reducing emissions of smog-forming pollution while conserving a valuable domestic energy resource. These safeguards reduce methane, which drives one-quarter of current global warming, and save almost $2 billion worth of American energy.
5. Cleaner cars and trucks
The Obama EPA enhanced fuel efficiency and sensible pollution standards for vehicles. Consumers are saving money at the same time that we're reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our communities are breathing cleaner air, and auto manufacturing in America is resurgent. Cars are now on a path to average over 50 miles per gallon.
6. Clean energy investment
Way back in 2009, the "stimulus" package not only helped us out of the Great Recession, it invested billions in clean energy technology. These programs have paid for themselves and made the American government $1 billion in interest payments, while also helping to make wind and solar energy more affordable in the last eight years, as deployment has soared.
7. Chemical safety
The president signed the first major environmental law in two decades, passed with bipartisan support, fixing our broken chemical safety system.
8. Sustainable agriculture, western water, and endangered species
The President established regional Climate Hubs and several initiatives to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities combat climate change and adapt to extreme weather. He signed a landmark agreement with Mexico providing greater flexibility in the management and restoration of the Colorado River, which allowed the river to reach the sea for the first time in decades. And he brought industry, environmentalists and private landowners together across 11 states to voluntarily protect the greater sage grouse and avoid a listing.
9. Fisheries rebound
Through strong implementation of revisions to the national fisheries law, under President Obama the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reduced overfishing and recovered a record number of fisheries in US waters. Catch shares now govern more than half the volume of fish landed in the United States and have prompted the dramatic recovery of previously overfished species such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper and several Pacific rockfishes.
10. Protecting our natural heritage
The president has preserved 260 million acres for future generations, more than any of his predecessors, by designating 19 national monuments. He signed into law and began implementing the RESTORE Act, the nation's largest-ever commitment to protect and restore the Gulf Coast.
The best way to honor these accomplishments is to protect and defend them. Can we do so in a Trump Administration? If we are relentless in our activism, yes we can.