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What do the recently announced U.S. emissions targets need to mean?


By Alex Lopatka, Silver Spring MD

In the past week, there have been murmurings of whether President Obama would go to COP-15 with a quantifiable emissions reduction target; now, the confusion is over. Obama has confirmed that he is indeed traveling to Copenhagen, and announced that the U.S. will reduce emissions “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. The president must work vigorously in the days he has left before the conference starts to assure the world the U.S. is serious about their stated targets.

How can President Obama possibly convince the world that the U.S. is committed to achieving and even surpassing those emissions reduction targets?

The number one way to tell the world the U.S. is serious about emissions reductions is to pass the climate legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Even though the U.S. federal government will not pass a bill before COP-15, Obama must continue to stress the importance of having an emissions reduction bill well in advance of the first commitment period. The world will understand the U.S. cares about climate change when the U.S. passes a strong climate legislation bill.

The second part President Obama must make clear is that these reductions in emissions will be solely from increases in energy efficiency and domestic reductions. In other words, the U.S. should not try to reduce carbon dioxide by purchasing offsets. This is a surefire way to be criticized for “talking the talk” and buying our obligation to “walk the walk”.

Australia has been criticized for trying to use REDD in order to not reduce their own domestic emissions by the Friends of the Earth Australia and Aid/Watch in their new report, “What a Scam! Australia’s REDD Offsets for Copenhagen”. The U.S. must make clear that purchasing offsets will not  be a method for “reducing” their emissions.

It is not enough to merely announce an emissions reduction target. The U.S. arrived at this target very slowly; President Obama needs to explain the target and ensure the world that the U.S. is not only serious but ready to tackle climate change.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Anthony permalink
    11/29/09 7:19 pm

    good analysis alex!

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