(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
“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
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.
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
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
“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.”
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Alex Nussbaum in New York at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Susan Warren at
Will Wade, Robin Saponar