New analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) finds that the United States is currently not on track to reach its stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 (below 2005 levels), but it has the tools to get there. The new report, “Can the U.S. Get There from Here?” explores specific steps the Administration and states can take to reduce U.S. emissions, without Congressional action.
“President Obama has put tackling climate change high on his agenda. Our analysis shows that with strong leadership and ambitious action, the Administration can make a significant dent in U.S. emissions,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President, World Resources Institute. “Meeting the 17 percent target would signal that the U.S. is serious about climate change at home and would enhance U.S. leadership on the international stage.”
The analysis finds that the Administration has the opportunity to move forward in four key areas:
- Implementing strong standards for carbon dioxide pollution from existing power plants;
- Reducing non-energy sources of emissions, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are commonly found in refrigerators and air conditioners;
- Limiting methane emissions from natural gas production; and
- Increasing energy efficiency from industry and home appliances.
“The Administration has multiple ways to move forward with smart policies to reduce U.S. emissions. The best opportunity is to enact new standards for existing power plants, which represent one-third of all U.S. emissions,” said Nicholas Bianco, Senior Associate, WRI, and the lead author of the report. “The Administration has the ability to put the U.S. on track to meet its commitments, and can do so in a cost-effective and efficient manner.”
The report also finds that states can take meaningful action and can use their authority to supplement federal actions. Twenty-nine U.S. states have renewable energy standards and 20 have energy efficiency standards. Some states are moving forward with ambitious climate policies. For example, California just launched a cap-and-trade program that will cover 85 percent of the state’s emissions. California also has a target to produce 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. On the East Coast, nine states have capped emissions from the power sector through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
While meeting the 17 percent target is achievable, scientific authorities have found that it will take deeper reductions to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Reaching the longer-term goals will likely take additional action from Congress. In the meantime, there is much more the Administration can do to reduce U.S. emissions.
“In meeting its goal, the U.S. can join the global community in taking on the climate crisis. Reducing emissions will benefit U.S. citizens and encourage other countries to make greater reductions,” said Dr. Steer. “It’s clear that the longer the U.S. waits, the harder – and more expensive – it will be. The Administration has the tools. We look forward to seeing what steps they take to shift the country to a low-carbon pathway.”