According to an analysis released by the World Resources Institute, the U.S. doesn’t appear to be on track to meet its international commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Sources like methane releases from landfills and the U.S. energy and transportation sectors are examined under these new findings.
Even though carbon emissions have fallen in recent years due to the economic downturn and the increased use of natural gas to produce electricity, the study provides a rather pessimistic view of the future.
The analysis suggests that non-carbon emissions from the U.S. natural gas boom and from chemicals used as refrigerants are on the rise, even though the current administration has taken steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions i.e. imposing the first carbon limits on new power plants and vehicles.
Compared with 2005 levels, the U.S. target is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to stay near the 8.7 percent levels through 2035. Unlike greenhouse gas emissions from other sources which are expected to increase 18 percent by 2020 and 36 percent by 2035.
Something that could cut the gap in half is a policy that the White House is considering – imposing greenhouse emission limits on existing power plants. According to the report, phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) would make up 23 percent of the gap. HFCs are used in cooling equipment from soda machines to many car air conditioners. Making up 11 percent and 8 percent of the difference would come from stricter federal rules for natural-gas methane emissions and energy efficiency standards.
President Obama has made it clear that he plans to undertake a more ambitious action on climate change in his second term by using regulatory authority, even though he is facing stiff congressional opposition.
The WRI analysts warn that without setting these and other climate policies in place, the U.S. will fall short of its 2009 pledge as part of the U.N. climate negotiations. The United States’ ability to meet their commitment – even though it is more modest than many scientists and other world leaders have called for – could influence more than 190 nations and their ability to broker a new climate pact.
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