US makes historic climate pledge, targets emissions cuts of up to 28%

White House joins EU, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland in making contribution to 2015 climate deal public

(Pic: White House/Flickr)

Barack Obama has made climate action a priority of his second term in office (Pic: White House/Flickr)

By Ed King

The US government has confirmed it will target a 26-28% drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, in its contribution to a global climate change pact.

Announced last November as part of a US-China climate agreement, the offer has now been formally submitted to the UN ahead of this December’s Paris climate summit.

The US is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases to submit its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) by the March 31 deadline set for countries that felt able to do so.

The European Union’s 28 member states, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland have also released their plans, meaning 24% of global emissions are now covered. China, India and Brazil are expected to release their own commitments later this year.

UN officials see INDCs as the foundations of a proposed UN climate deal. They have set a deadline of October 1 for all countries to deliver their proposals, after which they will assess whether they are fair and adequate.

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Analysts at the Climate Action Tracker organisation, who have been assessing all pledges as they are released, say they are not sufficient to prevent warming of above 2C, a ceiling countries agreed to avoid 2009.

Beyond 2C more droughts, floods and rising sea levels can be expected, a UN panel of scientists warned last year.

“While there has been some progress in what governments are proposing for the post 2020 period, with several countries moving from “inadequate” to “medium”, proposals are still a long way from being 2C compatible,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institute welcomed the announcement, but expressed hopes the US would increase its target as the price of cleaner technologies continues to fall.

“Some countries have already outlined how they will contribute their fair share to this global effort and many more will also join the United States in the months to come,” she said.

“Building on these national offers, a successful agreement in Paris will accelerate the low-carbon transition already under way.”

In a statement Marshall Islands foreign minister Tony de Brum said it was time for the US to “do some heavy lifting.”

“We welcome the US’ maintenance of the 28 percent at the top of the target range, and the fact that the US wants a five-year commitment from 2020 to 2025 under the new Paris Agreement,” he said.

“As we’ve said all along, we need new targets from all countries every five years to ensure we’re making the most of the latest science, the new technologies and the cheapest opportunities.”


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