Our Story

Protecting the Environment and Addressing Climate Change

President Obama believed no other country on Earth is better equipped to lead the world towards a solution to the threats posed by climate change.

Under the President’s leadership, the United States did more to combat climate change than ever before, while growing the economy. In fact, during the Obama Administration, carbon emissions decreased 9 percent, while the U.S. economy grew more than 10 percent.

April 27, 2011

Protected the Health of America’s Waters

In April 2011, the Obama Administration released a national Clean Water Framework that recognized the importance of clean water and healthy watersheds to our economy, environment and communities, and emphasized the importance of partnerships and coordination with states, local communities, stakeholders, and the public to protect public health and water quality, and promote the nation’s energy and economic security.

The Administration worked with policymakers, consumers, farmers and businesses to save water — and save money — through 21st century water management policies and technology, and used the latest science and research to identify and address emerging pollution challenges.

President Barack Obama looks out over the water after arriving aboard Marine One at the Brenton Point landing zone in Newport, R.I., Aug. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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2010 – 2012

Restored the Gulf Coast Ecosystem

On April 20, 2010, the blowout and explosion of the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon resulted in the largest oil spill in U.S. history (Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill).

In response, President Obama issued an Executive Order recognizing the Gulf Coast as a national treasure and addressing the longstanding ecological decline of that region, which was compounded by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

The Executive Order established a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force) to coordinate intergovernmental efforts, planning, and the exchange of information in order to better implement Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration and facilitate appropriate accountability and support throughout the restoration process.

Two years later, building upon the Task Force’s successful collaboration between between Federal, State, and tribal governments, the Administration established the Gulf Restoration Council through the RESTORE Act, bringing five states and six Federal agencies together to restore Gulf Coast ecosystems and communities.

(Left) “After the BP oil spill, the President made several trips to the Gulf Coast. Here he walks along the beach with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist near the Pensacola Gulf Pier in Pensacola. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Right) U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, left, who is serving as the National Incident Commander, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, right, brief President Barack Obama about the situation along the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill, at the Coast Guard Venice Center, in Venice, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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February 3, 2013

Made Buildings More Efficient

President Obama established the Better Buildings Challenge to enlist cities, states, utilities, manufacturers, school districts, and businesses to improve energy efficiency, targeting heavy users such as data centers and outdoor lighting systems. He worked with companies, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders to drive $4 billion of investment in energy-efficiency upgrades for public and private buildings.

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton listen as Gary Le Francois, Senior Vice President and Director of Engineering, leads them on a tour of the Transwestern Building in Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011. The 240,000 square foot office building is undergoing renovations to the façade and internal systems that are expected to raise their ENERGY STAR rating to 95 (out of 100). (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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June 25, 2013

Removed Carbon Pollution from the Air

President Obama took a series of common-sense steps to curb carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases through initiatives that drove energy efficiency, promoted clean energy, and put in place the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants.

In 2012, U.S. carbon pollution from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades even as the economy continued to grow. To build on this progress, the Obama Administration put in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution — just like we have for other toxins like mercury and arsenic.

The plan also set a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least three billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 — more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector — through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings.

Bad news: Carbon pollution in our atmosphere is higher than at any point in human history.

The good news? America is leading global efforts to combat climate change. More than 180 countries representing nearly 95% of global emissions have recently announced their own climate targets to reduce carbon emissions.

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October 22, 2014

Fostered Climate Literacy

President Obama believed climate education and literacy are particularly important for building a 21st-century workforce, where tomorrow’s community leaders, city planners, and entrepreneurs have the information, knowledge, and training to make sound decisions and grow businesses in the context of a changing climate.

He launched the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative to ensure that all students and citizens have the knowledge and training they need to address the climate change challenge. The Initiative ensured that citizens of all ages have a solid grounding in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills that serve as a basis for discovery, invention, and innovation.

“This photograph was from the annual White House Science Fair. It shows the President posing with Girl Scout Troop 2612 from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I think the eight-year-old girls–Avery Dodson, Natalie Hurley, Miriam Schaffer, Claire Winton and Lucy Claire Sharp–are called ‘Brownies’. They had just shown the President their exhibit: a Lego flood proof bridge project. The fair celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

From High School to IBM
Radcliffe Saddler tells his brother Theodore about attending P-Tech High School in Brooklyn. Radcliffe was selected to introduce President Obama when he came to visit the school in October 2013.
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January 21, 2015

Worked to Protect the Alaskan Arctic

Over the past 60 years, climate change has caused the Alaskan Arctic to warm twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States, and will continue to transform the Arctic as its consequences grow more severe. Higher atmospheric temperatures have led to a steady and dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice, widespread glacier retreat, increasing coastal erosion, more acidic oceans, earlier spring snowmelt, thawing permafrost, drier landscapes, and more extensive insect outbreaks and wildfires, thus changing the accessibility and natural features of this remote region.

President Obama established the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to coordinate national efforts in the Arctic, and to strengthen cooperation among Federal agencies, State, local, tribal, academic, private and other groups to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.

(Left) “The President tours Kenai Fjords National Park by boat. The trip to Alaska may have been the best domestic trip of his Presidency. Being on a boat on a picturesque day certainly helped.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Right) “‘He was just excited to see you,’ one of the salmon fisherwoman exclaimed after a salmon spawned on the President’s feet at Kanakanak Beach in Bristol Bay, Alaska.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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June 2015 – August 2015

Invested in Clean Energy

In June 2015, the Obama Administration launched the Clean Energy Investment Initiative to expand private-sector investment in promising technologies aimed at reducing carbon pollution, including inspiring more than $4 billion in private-sector commitments and executive actions to scale up investment in clean-energy innovation.

The Administration also dedicated new federal resources for economic diversification, job creation, training, and other employment services for workers and communities impacted by layoffs at coal mines and coal-fired power plants.

Finally, President Obama committed to combating climate change to protect future generations while supporting a strong rural economy, as climate change was already affecting rural communities across the country and putting homes, businesses, and vital infrastructure at risk. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new investment in nearly 550 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the country totaling nearly $7 million in funding through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

President Barack Obama tours the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center with Lew Hey, chairman and CEO of FPL Group, left, and Greg Bove, FPL construction manager, in Arcadia, Fla., Oct. 27, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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2009-2017

Invested in Climate Resilience

The Obama Administration developed the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a website to provide centralized, authoritative, easy-to-use information to help communities prepare for the impacts of climate change. The President also supported expanded use of green infrastructure techniques to improve natural management of stormwater and boost community resilience to flooding and other impacts of climate change.

To enhance commitments to building resilience in vulnerable communities disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change — many of which are already facing economic or health-related challenges — the Administration and its partners announced the first-ever Resilience AmeriCorps. The two-year pilot program recruited, trained, and embedded AmeriCorps VISTA members in ten communities across the country to increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas, and help those communities develop plans for becoming more resilient to any number of shocks and stresses, including better preparations for extreme weather events.

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August 24, 2015

Reduced the Government’s Emissions

President Obama was committed to addressing the climate change threat — both by taking action here at home and showing leadership on the world stage.

As part of his commitment to lead by example to curb the emissions that are driving climate change, President Obama issued an Executive Order to cut the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels — saving taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs — and increased the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent. Complementing this effort, several major Federal suppliers announced commitments to cut their own GHG emissions.

Together, the combined results of the Federal Government actions and new supplier commitments will reduce GHG emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year.

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2009 – 2015

Preserved Open Spaces and Endangered Species

Early in his tenure, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation, which designated more than 2 million acres of Federal wilderness and protected thousands of miles of trails and more than one thousand miles of rivers.

Committed to giving every kid the chance to explore America’s great outdoors and unique history, President Obama also launched an “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that provided all fourth-grade students and their families free admission to all Federal lands and waters for a full year.

President Barack Obama looks at the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Aug. 16, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

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December 12, 2015

Led the Paris Agreement

The Obama Administration led a global effort to achieve the Paris Agreement among 196 countries to take real action on climate change that calls for strong transparency, ensuring countries adhere to ambitious emissions reduction goals, and setting the world on a course to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases.

President Barack Obama briefs European leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Danish Prime Minister Lars L. Rasmussen, following a multilateral meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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2014 – 2017

Made Homes More Efficient

President Obama was committed to taking responsible steps to slow the effects of climate change so we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations.

In September 2014, the Administration announced new private sector commitments and executive actions to reduce emissions of hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The commitments made in 2014 would reduce cumulative global consumption of these greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025, equivalent to 1.5% of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions and the same as taking nearly 15 million cars off the road for 10 years. New energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment also cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars,

Additionally, President Obama led an international coalition of countries to secure an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs, potent greenhouse gases. The amendment, which had strong support from U.S. industry, would avoid more than 80 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050 — equivalent to more than a decade of emissions from the entire U.S. economy — and could avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century.

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December 20, 2016

Worked with Canada to Protect the Arctic

On December 20, 2016, in partnership with our neighbors and allies in Canada, the Obama Administration took historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect the United States’ fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing.

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