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New US Climate Target is Achievable and Sends an Important Signal to the World

schmidt-jake-nrdcOn March 31, the US formally proposed that it would cut its emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. This emission reduction target shows a commitment to strong action from the US to cut its carbon pollution and sends a powerful signal to the world.

As NRDC’s President Rhea Suh said:

“This important commitment sends a powerful message to the world: Together we can slash dangerous carbon pollution and combat climate change. This announcement builds on America’s leadership that already is delivering notable breakthroughs, such as the recent commitments by China and Mexico to join the global effort. And that bodes well for a strong international commitment to fight climate change at the Paris conference in December.

“We are confident that the US commitment can be met — and even exceeded. Doing so, though, will require several critical steps: setting a stronger carbon pollution standard through President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, enacting other greenhouse gas reductions, limiting methane leaks from production processes and investing in clean transportation instead of letting big oil plunder our precious oceans and landscapes. Taken together, these steps will help combat the gravest environmental threat of our time.”

This announcement comes forward as a part of the international effort to secure a new agreement this December in Paris, France. The target was first announced in November 2014, alongside a commitment from China to peak its carbon pollution and expand clean energy. As the official statement says: “The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%”.

President Obama has set in motion many carbon-cutting actions pursuant to an earlier target of cutting US carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. These include carbon pollution standards for America’s power plants, improved vehicle efficiency standards, appliance efficiency standards, efforts to address methane, and standards to reduce the climate pollution of coolants used in air conditioners and refrigerators. I suspect that President Obama isn’t done yet on these and other efforts before he leaves office.

The new US commitment to cut total national emissions to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 is achievable with strong, sustained actions. Under existing law we have consistently found that the US can reduce its emissions 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The US can meet both its 2020 and 2025 targets using existing laws like the Clean Air Act, energy efficiency laws, and protecting our public lands and waters. New acts of Congress may be needed in the long-term, but the US President can take a big bite out of US climate pollution using the laws already on the books. As the White House notes: “The United States’ target is ambitious and achievable, and we have the tools we need to reach it.”

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