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Obama administration reveals toughest rules yet against climate change

Final regulations seek to replace hundreds of coal-fired power plants

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Last year, the Obama administration unveiled its plan to curb climate change with some of the stiffest environmental regulations yet. Tomorrow, President Obama will reveal the final rules, with targets that are even more aggressive than the draft regulations.

The new regulations focus on limiting carbon pollution from power plants across America. Specifically, the 600-plus, coal-fired power plants across the country are targeted by the regulations — it's said that the new policies will shut down hundreds of such plants, which are among the largest producers of greenhouse gases. The regulations are also designed to halt the production of new coal power plants, and will encourage the development of power plants based on renewable sources.

BREAKING: On Monday, President Obama will release the final version of America's Clean Power Plan—the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change. If you agree that we can't condemn our kids and grandkids to a planet that's beyond fixing, share this video with your friends and family. It's time to #ActOnClimate.

Posted by The White House on Saturday, August 1, 2015

The White House published a video on Facebook to announce the news and, Obama hopes, spread the word. In it, Obama calls the new rules "the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change," and he proclaims that "climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore." Obama will make an official announcement tomorrow from the White House.

"The biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change."

In the video, Obama focuses on the real, present effects of climate change, as well as the cost of not taking action. He notes that temperatures have already risen, and mentions that there are other noticeable effects already, like increased asthma issues.

Compared to the plan released in 2014, the final rules are more stringent. For instance, they no longer support letting states switch from coal to natural gas plants to cut back on emissions, reports The New York Times. They also call on states to cut their emissions by 32 percent from the levels set in 2005. That's two percentage points more than the draft regulations.

Rules target a 32 percent drop from 2005 levels

States have until 2030 to reach those levels, and the Environmental Protection Agency is expecting states to submit plans by 2018. An initial version of those plans is due next year. The new rules do move the deadline for the first emission reductions to 2022, from 2020, according to The Hill. But that push back is designed to discourage states from quickly moving over to natural gas to make up for the shortfall from closed coal plants.

One core part of the rules is that it seeks to generate a so-called cap-and-trade system with carbon credits. States that come in under the limit will essentially be able to trade their excess pollution allowance to states that are behind or otherwise are not complying with the rules. There will be an open market for such carbon credits; meaning that there will be a financial incentive for transitioning to renewable energy sources.

It's important to note, however, that states will be able to choose how to comply with the new rules. They won't be forced to use a cap-and-trade system, though the federal government will give benefits to those that do.

Despite the strict new goals (by US standards, at least), these changes alone are not expected to be sufficient to make a meaningful push against climate change around the world. Nations like China and India, in particular, will need to make major changes for that to happen — the US alone represents a far smaller amount of the world's total carbon footprint. That said, the new regulations should give Obama and the US better footing to push for changes worldwide. If it works out, Obama also hopes the rules, like the Affordable Care Act, will become an enduring part of his legacy once he leaves the oval office in less than two years' time.