U.S. Pledges Emissions Cuts in Bid to Boost UN Climate Talks

(Bloomberg) — Facing Republican resistance at home and

delays abroad, the Obama administration today pledged its most

ambitious target yet for cutting emissions.

President Barack Obama, who’s made fighting climate change

a second-term priority, formally submitted a plan he outlined in

November to slash U.S. greenhouse gases by more than a quarter

over the next decade. The filing with the UN is intended to

boost talks aimed at reaching a final agreement in Paris this

December on how nations can avoid irreversible damage to the


Obama’s strategy relies on deep cuts in carbon dioxide from

coal-fired power plants that congressional Republicans and the

coal industry have vowed to fight. Meanwhile, the UN talks are

already facing challenges, with major greenhouse-gas emitters

including China, India, Australia and Canada expected to miss

today’s informal deadline for submitting plans to the UN. The

White House said it hoped today’s blueprint from the world’s

biggest economy would spur other countries to act.

“The U.S. has already cut more carbon pollution than any

other country,” Brian Deese, an Obama adviser, told reporters

on a conference call. “We are committing to build on that

process and to pick up the pace.”

The U.S., the biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China,

joins Mexico, Switzerland, Norway and the 28 members of the

European Union in filing its pledge. After the U.S.

announcement, Russia filed its plan Tuesday, saying it would cut

greenhouse pollution by at least a quarter below 1990 levels by


U.S. Ambition

“Many of the others are waiting to see how the U.S. does

it, how ambitious they will be,” said Wai-Shin Chan, a Hong

Kong-based strategist who follows the climate talks for HSBC

Holdings Plc. “It shows the world they have a top-line number

and they have regulations or will have regulations in place to

accomplish it.”

The pledge keeps the U.S. on track to reduce greenhouse

pollution by mid-century, Deese said.

Obama outlined his goals last year in a surprise

announcement with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Today’s

submission formalized the pledge, with the U.S. promising to cut

heat-trapping pollution 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005

levels by 2025.

China promised its emissions would stop growing by around

2030. Like many other developing countries, Chinese leaders say

their need to grow their economies means they need more time to

shift away from fossil fuels that produce most greenhouse gases.

National Commitments

The ultimate goal of the UN talks is to wrest commitments

from each nation, rich and poor, to keep the rise in average

global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial

levels, the point scientists say would protect against

irreversible damage to the climate. Environmental groups

welcomed the U.S. submission, while saying it still fell short.

“The Obama administration now has a history of setting

decent targets and offering nice talking points on climate, but

not backing that up with urgent and significant actions to move

away from fossil fuels,” Kyle Ash, legislative representative

for the environmental group Greenpeace, said in an e-mailed


The national climate plans filed with the UN thus far, as

well as the U.S. and China submissions, are all improvements

over past strategies that were “inadequate,” Climate Action

Tracker, a European research group, said in a report today.

Still, they’re “a long way” from keeping the world below

a 2-degree rise, said Bill Hare, one of the authors of the


Republican Opposition

Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, attacked

today’s proposal, saying the Obama administration has declared a

“war on coal” that threatens the economy and energy supplies.

Republicans are seeking to weaken regulations — including

limits on power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas

drilling — intended to drive down emissions rates.

Obama’s plans “will not see the light of day” in the

current Congress, U.S. Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma

Republican who heads the chamber’s environment committee, said

in a statement. “Americans are beginning to question if the

cost of billions of dollars to our economy and tens of thousands

of lost job opportunities is really worth it for potentially no


Deese, the White House adviser, said Obama had already

achieved the biggest reductions in greenhouse pollution while

still overseeing the creation of 12 million jobs. “We don’t

need to choose between economic growth and protecting our

environment,” he said.

The report to the UN said the U.S. can reach its emissions

goals under existing legislation, a signal to international

negotiators that the pledge isn’t dependent on the tides of

Washington politics.

“The undoing of the kind of regulations we are putting in

place is something that is very tough to do,” Todd Stern, the

U.S. envoy to the climate talks, said on the conference call.

“Countries ask me about the solidity of what we’re doing all

the time and that’s exactly what I explain.”

To contact the reporter on this story:

Alex Nussbaum in New York at


To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Susan Warren at


Will Wade, Robin Saponar

About BloombergNEF

BloombergNEF (BNEF) is a strategic research provider covering global commodity markets and the disruptive technologies driving the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our expert coverage assesses pathways for the power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors to adapt to the energy transition. We help commodity trading, corporate strategy, finance and policy professionals navigate change and generate opportunities.
Sign up for our free monthly newsletter →

Want to learn how we help our clients put it all together? Contact us