Obama administration sees cost savings, health benefits from climate action

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The health and economic benefits of global climate change policies outweigh the impacts of taking no action, the Obama administration said Monday in a new report, which was released as Congress tries to weaken some of those policies this week. The new report by the Environmental Protection Agency makes the first attempt to quantify the benefits of global action on climate change by examining 20 key sectors from water to electricity to infrastructure, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters Monday. “The report finds that we can save tens of thousands of American lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars, annually in the United States by the end of this century, and the sooner we act, the better off America and future generations of Americans will be,” McCarthy said. The EPA is at the center of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he first announced nearly two years ago, which aims to tackle greenhouse gas emissions across different sectors using mainly executive actions and existing authority under federal law. Congress this week will vote on two bills that aim to weaken the EPA’s proposed regulations targeting the country’s power plants as well as the agency’s operating budget for the next fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling as soon as Thursday on whether the EPA erred when issuing rules targeting mercury from power plants by not initially taking into account costs to industry, which are projected to be around $10 billion. For example, the report estimated 57,000 fewer deaths from poor air quality in the United States in 2100 if action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It also finds that global action on climate change can reduce the economic damages caused by climate change. The agency projects $10-$34 billion in savings on power system costs by shifting to lower emitting energy sources by 2050 and a savings of around $7 billion in road maintenance annually in 2100. Brian Deese, climate change adviser to the White House, told reporters that the findings of the report "undergird" the president's message that there is a moral and economic case for climate action as he tries to show leadership both domestically and in global climate change negotiations on climate change. "What is hopeful about this report is that it once again shows not just that these actions are real and we need to act now, but there are real economic dividends to acting early and aggressively," Deese said. The report can be read here: http://www2.epa.gov/cira (Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bernard Orr)