The United States is on course to miss its emissions reduction target agreed in the Paris climate accord nine months ago, with new research finding that the world’s largest historical emitter doesn’t currently have the policies in place to meet its pledge.
Even if the US implements a range of emissions-slashing proposals that have yet to be introduced, the nation could still overshoot its 2025 target by nearly 1bn tonnes of greenhouse gases. This failure would have profound consequences for the US’s position as a climate leader, as well for the global effort to stave off the dangerous heatwaves, sea level rise and extreme weather associated with climate change.
If the policies were locked today, there would be a low likelihood of meeting the target,” said Jeffery Greenblatt, scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and lead author of the study, published in Nature.
“I wouldn’t disparage the US’s efforts so far, but we need to do more as a nation and globally to reduce emissions. However we splice it, that’s hard to do. We can’t make small alterations to our economy – we need fundamental changes in how we get and use energy.”
The US pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025, based in 2005 levels, at last year’s landmark Paris climate deal. At the time, Barack Obama hailed the US as “the global leader in fighting climate change”.
But the new study used previous government projections combined with updated emissions data to forecast that even if the president’s centerpiece Clean Power Plan was to go ahead, the US would fall short of its target by 551m to 1.8bn tonnes of greenhouse gases. Adding in all proposed reforms, to areas such as building codes, emissions standards for trucks and fertilizers, would still see a shortfall of 356m to 924m tonnes by 2025.