US Officially Submits Climate Targets to United Nations

Today, the United States submitted our climate targets to the United Nations, meeting the March 31 deadline.

This formalizes President Obama’s commitment for the US: we will cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

In addition to setting post-2020 targets, countries are asked to divulge their policies for meeting them. In the case of the US, these are:

  • extend fuel economy standards to heavy-duty trucks, which is about to enter force
  • increase energy efficiency in buildings through codes and standards
  • phase out climate forcing HFCs (agreed to with China)
  • limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector
  • reducing emissions from power plants

The US is on track to cut emissions 17% by 2020, the submission says, and will need to substantially accelerate to achieve the 2025 target. Emissions need to drop 2.3-2.8% per year, roughly double the current pace.

Climate Change Obama

The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change – comprised of 34 senators and 83 House members (all Democrats), sent President Obama a letter of support. 

"One of the three pillars of the Climate Action Plan is to lead international efforts to address global climate change. As a nation that has contributed more than a quarter of all global carbon pollution, it is our responsibility to lead. As a nation already feeling the effects and costs of climate change, it is also in our national interest to do so … As we have seen time and time again, other countries will join us, if America leads the way," says the letter. 

72% of likely voters in 2016 support the US signing an international climate change agreement – 88% of Democrats, 73% of Independents and 52% of Republicans, according to a poll. 65% want the US to lead on meaningful emissions reductions.

The US follows the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Mexico in submitting targets, and Russia did so this afternoon. All commitments are posted here.

Leading Up To The Paris Agreement

All countries agreed to the March deadline as part of the Lima Accord, so let’s hope they meet the next deadline in June. Many have already made impressive announcements that just need to be formalized.

Read our article, Climate Summit Results in Some Big Announcements.

Perhaps most importantly, for the first time a "zero emissions" goal by 2050 gained traction, with over 100 countries adopting the target.

Next Steps:

  • By May, a draft of the international agreement will have been circulated and commented on – it will be based on staying below the 2°C threshold. 
  • By November 1, the secretariat of the UN Climate Change Convention will have assessed if country commitments are enough to meet the 2°C threshold. If not, they will announce how far they are from the target.
  • In December, the dramatic final negotiation – and hopefully signing of an international climate agreement – takes places in Paris, France.

Read the US commitment letter:

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