State: Obama plan hits climate target

President Obama’s climate plan would enable the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, according to a new State Department report released Thursday.

The report arrives amid a big White House PR push to promote carbon standards for power plants, new appliance and equipment efficiency standards, interagency work to cut methane emissions and many other executive steps.

The report says Obama's second-term plan rolled out in June, combined with first-term actions, like auto mileage rules and work to boost green power generation, would help meet the emissions pledges that the U.S. has made in international climate talks.


U.S. emissions are already trending downward. Average U.S. greenhouse gas pollution in 2009-2011 fell to the lowest level for any three-year period since 1994-1996, the State Department said, but the report says more actions are needed.

“[S]ignificant new measures will be required to stay on track to reach the U.S. goal of achieving reductions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. By building on the success of the first term, the United States can achieve substantial further emission reductions consistent with this ambitious goal,” said the report, which is slated for delivery to the United Nations states.

Increased use of natural gas for electricity, which releases much less carbon dioxide than coal, has also driven down U.S. carbon emissions in recent years.

But environmentalists warn that stronger measures to control emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane from well sites are needed.

The State Department actually released two reports Thursday.

One is an every-four-years emissions report to the United Nations on emissions, which is based on existing policies. The second is a first-time, biennial report on planned climate actions to help meet U.S. pledges at recent U.N. climate negotiations.

U.N.-hosted climate talks are aimed at completing a binding global emissions pact in late 2015 that would come into force in 2020. But the talks have been rocky and nearly collapsed at times.

A senior administration official told reporters Thursday that U.S. plans to limit carbon emissions from power plants are “giving greater momentum to the climate talks with a lot of our partners.”

One senior Democrat said the draft report could help international efforts.

“The U.S. Climate Action Report shows that we are reducing emissions and have a plan in place to meet our commitments going forward. This puts us in a position of strength to keep the pressure on other nations to follow suit,” said Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict Failed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.