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Obama writes on ‘irreversible’ shift to low-carbon US

Highlighting his own environmental legacy, Obama writes in the journal Science about the robust economic trends pushing America towards a clean energy future.

The US will continue its shift to a low-carbon economy despite what government policies may come next, President Barack Obama wrote in the journal Science.

In a swan song piece seeking to confirm his environmental legacy, Obama said there are “irreversible” trends that show cutting carbon emissions and investing in clean energy will be key to future economic growth in the US.

During his time in office, Obama has pushed numerous government regulations to lower CO2 emissions and encourage renewables growth, the most notable being the Clean Power Act, which aims to phase coal out of national energy production. He has also played an important role in drumming up support for the Paris climate agreement in 2015 that sets carbon reduction goals for 191 countries.

“The mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue,” Obama wrote.

In the piece, he stressed the important role of the private sector and made a business case for why clean energy has become an attractive alternative to fossil fuels and why ignoring carbon emissions will be bad for future business.

The president cited statistics that say natural gas generation in the US has increased from 21 percent in 2008 to 33 percent today. He also wrote about the technological advances and government policies that have made renewable sources competitive and coal obsolete. It’s unlikely these trends will change course and utilities will build new coal plants, Obama said.

“Businesses are coming to the conclusion” that reducing emissions can increase profit, the president noted, adding: “These investments are being made by firms that decide to cut their energy waste in order to save money.” One example Obama offered was Google, which in December announced it will fully operate on renewable energy in 2017.

Looking forward, Obama said it’s becoming “increasingly clear” that investments needed to reduce carbon emissions will pale in comparison to the benefits from avoiding climate change damages. He encouraged businesses to adopt greater climate risk disclosures to shareholders and emphasised that climate change “should not be a partisan issue.”

President-elect Donald Trump has been a vocal climate change sceptic and made campaign promises to loosen regulations against the coal and oil industries.

“The latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring, in many cases independent of near-term policy choices, when it comes to combatting climate change and transitioning to a clean-energy economy,” Obama said.