The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kevin Bundy, (415) 436-9682 x 313,

Obama Administration Announces Weak Carbon Pollution Cuts Ahead of Paris Climate Talks

Misleading Plan Trims Emissions by Less Than Half Amount Necessary to Avoid Catastrophic Warming


The target for carbon pollution cuts announced today by the Obama administration uses deceptive accounting to disguise weak reductions that won't prevent catastrophic warming. U.S. negotiators will take this climate plan to December's United Nations climate talks in Paris.

"The starting gun in the race against global warming went off a long time ago, but the United States is still just jogging," said Kevin Bundy of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We need a stronger strategy. Global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change depend on the United States making much more ambitious cuts to planet-warming pollution."

Under the Obama plan, the United States would still be emitting at least 5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution a year by 2025, according to Center calculations based on the EPA's most recent emissions inventory. By way of comparison, the entire continent of Africa emitted just over 3 billion tons in 2011.

The proposed U.S. target ostensibly would cut greenhouse pollution economy-wide by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 emissions levels by 2025. But the Obama administration calculated reductions from a "base year" of 2005, when emissions were even higher than they are now. That masks the stark inadequacy of the U.S. effort.

Using the international standard base year of 1990, the target translates to reductions of just 14 to 16 percent by 2025. But the U.S. and other developed countries must cut pollution by at least 25 percent to 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2025 to do their fair share in helping to avoid a climate catastrophe, according to calculations by a team of climate scientists tracking international negotiations.

Each nation attending the Paris talks is required to propose a reduction target -- or "intended nationally determined contribution" -- representing "fair and ambitious" steps beyond those already underway. The U.N. climate framework also requires developed countries like the U.S. to shoulder a greater burden based on their historic contributions to the problem and their capacity to make changes.

Earth suffered the hottest year in recorded history in 2014. Rising temperatures are already contributing to a growing risk of drought and other dangerous forms of extreme weather. A recent U.N. report warned that global warming will cause food shortages, flooding of island nations and coastal cities, and mass wildlife extinctions.

A recent Nature study found that about a third of the planet's oil, half of all natural gas reserves and more than 80 percent of the world's coal must remain in the ground by mid-century to avoid dangerous global warming.

That's why the Center has called on the Obama administration to support an agreement in Paris that eliminates developed country fossil fuel use by 2050 and offers aggressive financial and technological support for clean-energy development in developing countries.

"We can't keep relying on dirty fossil fuels and hope to preserve a livable climate," Bundy said. "President Obama has a moral duty to pursue a global agreement that keeps most oil, coal and gas in the ground and helps developing nations leapfrog into clean-energy economies."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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