The U.S. State Department has formally announced an ambitious plan to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The new target has been submitted as part of efforts to secure an international agreement on slowing the emissions that contribute to climate change, an agreement that will be finalized at UN talks in Paris this December.
In a press release, the U.S. State Department explained that their submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a “formal statement of the U.S. target, announced in China last year, to reduce our emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and to make best efforts to reduce by 28 percent.” This will build upon efforts already launched by President Obama to cut national emissions by 17 percent by 2020.
Several governments have come forward to submit what is referred to as their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for reducing emissions and slowing climate change ahead of the Paris talks. The European Union has pledged to reduce emissions by 40 percent before 2030, Mexico plans to peak its overall net greenhouse gas emissions by 2026, and China has committed to peak emissions by 2030 and increase its share of non-fossil energy consumption to around 20 percent by the same time.
In total, the State Department reports “countries representing over 50 percent [58 percent] of global CO2 emissions have either announced or formally reported their targets” for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. And there are more nations—substantial contributors to global carbon emissions—who are still to come forward with their proposals, including India, Brazil and South Africa. Altogether, many hope the combined actions of these nations could lead to real, measurable change.
Domestically, the U.S. describes its target as “ambitious and achievable” and notes that “we have the tools we need to reach it… under existing law.” These tools include EPA guidelines set forth last year to cut emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants by 30 percent by 2030 under the Clean Power Plan, implementing higher energy efficiency standards within building and appliance sectors, following through on, and developing higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, and reducing methane emissions for a vast array of industries including agriculture, coal mining and oil and gas systems.
There is, of course, much more to be done. As the NRDC notes, it will be vital for the U.S. to reject “Big Oil’s bid to lock in decades of carbon pollution by developing major new reserves, starting with our threatened Arctic and Atlantic oceans,” if we are to reach the proposed target.
These changes—and the reduction in emissions they will bring—are all within reach for the U.S., and will contribute toward global efforts to reverse the climate changes we are already experiencing, and keep temperature rise below 2°C this century.