U.S. Unveils Plans to Cut Greenhouse Gases

White House submits targets for meeting UN goals on climate change.

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Achieving the Obama Administration's goal to cut greenhouse gases would require major cuts in emissions from coal-fired power plants such as this one in Page, Arizona.


Following through with a pledge made last fall, the White House submitted plans Tuesday to the United Nations to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

The U.S. joins more than 30 other countries—including Mexico, Russia, all European Union members, Switzerland, and Norway—in meeting an April 1 deadline to unveil how they would meet specific emission-reductions targets. Last fall, the Obama Administration agreed in negotiations to submit a plan in advance of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting, which takes place in Paris this December.

The U.S. accounts for 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. As a whole, the countries meeting the deadline account for some 58 percent of emissions, according to a blog post by the administration's climate policy adviser Brian Deese.

Several countries, including major carbon dioxide emitters such as India and Brazil, won't meet the April deadline and may not offer formal commitments for months.

"The United States' target is ambitious and achievable, and we have the tools we need to reach it," Deese wrote.

Some of the efforts needed to reach these targets already are under way. The Obama Administration has proposed rules to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants and to curb methane emissions from domestic energy production by at least 40 percent over the next decade. The United States also has tightened fuel-economy standards for new cars and trucks.

But some critics have said that to achieve its reduction goals, the U.S. would have to make far steeper cuts to emissions. Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote last year that achieving even the lower end of the pledge would require slashing power plant coal use about 75 percent.

After several years of declines, greenhouse gas emissions have inched up in the last two years in the United States, the world's second biggest emitter.

In a statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists called the White House plans "impressive," particularly given the gridlock in Washington, D.C. Republicans have criticized the White House for bypassing Congress and using its executive authority to have the Environmental Protection Agency establish new power plant emissions rules.

The Paris negotiations are expected to produce a global commitment that would take effect in 2020.

Craig Welch on Twitter @craigawelch.

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