Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan is merely one of the ways that will help it fulfill an existing pledge to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025 from 2005 levels.
“The biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change”. That is how President Barack Obama described the Clean Power Plan he unveiled last week. The Plan aims to cut, by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants by 32% from 2005 levels. To many, the plan is a “war on coal” by the Obama administration, which is keen to claim global leadership ahead of the climate change summit in Paris this year-end that is expected to deliver a landmark climate agreement. The announcement is the most specific the US has ever made on its emission reduction roadmap. But while the Plan has triggered intense debate within the US — and strong criticism from many coal-bearing states — it has elicited lukewarm response from the international community. It isn’t difficult to see why. America’s record on climate To begin with, the Clean Power Plan is not a new or additional emission reduction target that the US has committed itself to. It is merely one of the ways that will help it fulfill an existing pledge to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025 from 2005 levels. But more than that, the US track record on climate action has hardly inspired confidence. In the early 2000s, when it was the world’s largest emitter, it shied away from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol under which it had been assigned an emission cut target of 7% from 1990 levels, to be achieved by 2012. It was only in 2009, before the Copenhagen Conference, that the US took an emission reduction target – 17% of 2005 levels by 2020. On 1990 levels, that translated to a mere 4% cut. It is struggling to achieve even that: at the end of 2013, US emissions were barely 8.5% below 2005 levels.
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