Energy & Environment

Obama offers 28 percent emissions cut for UN climate treaty

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President Obama is promising the United Nations that the United States will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent.

Top Obama adviser Brian Deese announced Tuesday that the White House sent the pledge to the U.N. as the official U.S. contribution toward an emerging international climate change agreement.

“President Obama announced that the United States would build on the historic progress we’ve already made to cut carbon pollution and protect public health by reducing emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025,” Deese wrote on the blogging platform Medium.

Deese later told reporters that the UN submission “is ambitious and achievable within existing legal authority,” and that Congress would not have to pass any new legislation to enable it.

“Over the last eight years, we, the United States, have already cut carbon pollution more than any other country,” Deese said. “By formalizing this goal, we are committing to build on that progress and to pick up that pace.”

Deese said the United States would roughly double its carbon emissions reductions from current levels, and would be on a trajectory to slashing carbon 80 percent by 2050.

The pledge reflects an agreement Obama made with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, in exchange for China’s commitment to stop increasing greenhouse gases by 2030.

The cut will come by 2025 and is based on 2005 levels as a starting point.

Deese said the U.N. submission goes beyond the China deal by detailing how the United States would achieve the reduction.

It includes fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, energy efficiency measures for buildings and appliances, as well as measures to reduce the output of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that are about 10,000 times more potent than carbon for global warming.

“These policies deliver real benefits to the American people,” he said, noting the administration’s estimates that car efficiency and low gas prices are saving the average family $750 a year, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rule for power plants will prevent thousands of premature deaths.

The United States’ is only the sixth entity to offer a contribution to the U.N. agreement, following China, the 28-nation European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Mexico.

The contribution process reflects the unique nature of the climate negotiations, which leaders hope will wrap up at a December meeting in Paris.

Each country in the world is being asked to submit their own, national plans to fight climate change, which will be rolled together into one pact that might or might not be legally binding.

The U.N. wants emissions cuts that will keep global warming at or below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. If countries’ contributions cannot reach that level, leaders may try to negotiate stronger deals.

Environmental groups welcomed the announcement.

“This important commitment sends a powerful message to the world: Together we can slash dangerous carbon pollution and combat climate change,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

“We are confident that the U.S. commitment can be met — and even exceeded,” Suh continued.

The commitment immediately came under fire from congressional Republicans who say attempts to legislate greenhouse gas cuts could ruin the economy and increase energy prices.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the agreement requires Senate approval, and it will not happen in the current Senate.
“As the Obama administration continues to pursue a radical agenda on global warming, it’s clear Americans are beginning to question if the cost of billions of dollars to our economy and tens of thousands of lost job opportunities is really worth it for potentially no gain,” Inhofe said in a statement.
Republicans have vowed to do all they can to block the United States from committing itself to major emissions cuts.
Inhofe, along with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), proposed amendments to the Senate budget last week that would have prohibited the Obama administration from entering into any international climate pacts.

— This story was last updated at 12:10 a.m.

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