Policy Paper 1: U.S. Status on Climate Change Mitigation


Dallas Burtraw and Matt Woerman


In 2009, President Obama pledged that, by 2020, the United States would achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of 17 percent from 2005 levels. With the failure of Congress to adopt comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, the feasibility of the pledge was put in doubt. However, we find that the United States is near to reaching this goal; currently the country is on course to achieve reductions of 16.3 percent from 2005 levels in 2020.

Three factors contribute to this outcome: greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, secular trends including changes in relative fuel prices and energy efficiency, and subnational efforts. Perhaps even more surprising, domestic emissions are probably less than would have occurred if the Waxman—Markey cap-and-trade proposal had become law in 2010.

However, at this point the United States is expected to fail to meet its financing commitments under the Copenhagen Accord for 2020.


Updated: 2015-03-11

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