How the U.S. Plans to Cut 28% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2025

Illustration for article titled How the U.S. Plans to Cut 28% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2025

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced how it plans to gut greenhouse emissions over the coming decade. The documents explain the broad plans which will allow the country to reduce the emissions by an impressive 28 percent.

The plan is part of a written submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, for which an informal deadline of March 31st was set. The documents, which are being prepared by countries from around the world, will help inform climate negotiations in Paris this December.

It’s worth noting that not all countries have adhered to the informal deadline, however. So far, only the European Union, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S. have offered up their documents. It’s thought that countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia—some of the world’s biggest polluters—won’t submit until June, or perhaps even later in the year. It’s feared late submission may derail the talks.

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Regardless, Obama’s outline combines several domestic initiatives that have been discussed in the past. It claims that the U.S. will increase the fuel economy of vehicles, stop building coal-fired power plants, and seal off methane leaks from oil and gas production. In quantitative terms, the country is currently on track to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. To cut them by 28 percent by 2025 will require some effort.

Officials recognize that. “The United States’ target is ambitious and achievable, and we have the tools we need to reach it,” writes Brian Deese, a senior advisor to President Obama, in a blog post. “The goal will roughly double the pace at which we’re reducing carbon pollution through cost-effective measures using laws already on the books.”

The New York Times points out, though, that the plans may not be quite as achievable as he claims. It points out that many of the initiatives named in the plan will require the co-operation of Congress—which means convincing benches full of Republicans. It writes:

At the heart of the plan are ambitious but politically contentious Environmental Protection Agency regulations meant to drastically cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s cars and coal-fired power plants. The plan also relies on a speedy timetable, which assumes that Mr. Obama’s administration will issue and begin enacting all such regulations before he leaves office.

But the plan has also intensified opposition from Republican lawmakers who object to Mr. Obama’s effort to build a climate change legacy. Republicans have called the rules a “war on coal” and an abuse of executive authority. Nearly every potential Republican presidential candidate has criticized Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda.

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The road toward a 28 percent reduction won’t just be technically challenging then, but politically complex, too. With ever-decreasingly ability to make an impact as his second term progresses, Obama must act quickly if he’s to enact his ambitious and worthy climate agenda. [NYT, Brian Deese, Verge]

Image by Ian Britton under Creative Commons license

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