Pledges And Targets
Paris Agreement targets
The US NDC set a target of reducing its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, including land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). Although the Trump Administration has indicated that it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and stop implementing its NDC, the target legally remains in place until 4 November 2020. In May 2019, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to keep the US in the Paris Agreement. Although symbolically important, the resolution is very unlikely to receive the necessary approval of the Senate.
The NDC applies to all sectors including forestry (LULUCF). The impact of the NDC on reducing GHG emissions of the sectors other than LULUCF is unclear, due to uncertainties in the estimate of land sector removals and in the projections for these removals in 2020 and 2025. Changes in methodology increase the projected sinks in the land sector as reported in the 2nd Biennial Report (2015) compared to the 6th National Communication (2014), making it 4–5 %-points easier for the US to meet its future targets.
Based on the values in the US’s 6th National Communication (U.S. Department of State, 2014), we estimate that the 26–28% reduction target in emissions including LULUCF is likely to result in a range of 22–28% reduction in GHG emissions excluding LULUCF below 2005 levels, depending on whether the sink from LULUCF is at the high or low end of the projections.
1 | For methodological consistency with historical data, CAT uses values from the 6th National Communication.
2020 pledge and Kyoto target
The United States is not a Party to the Kyoto Protocol. While a target of a 7% reduction below 1990 from 2008–2012 was originally negotiated and agreed, the US never ratified the Protocol and therefore, the target never came into force.
Under the Copenhagen Accord, the US announced an emissions reduction target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (U.S. Department of State, 2010), which would be around 0 to 5% below 1990 levels excl. LULUCF. The US is within striking distance of this target: projected emissions for 2020 are anticipated to be 1–2% above the upper end of the target range excluding LULUCF.
As part of the Paris Agreement (Article 4), all parties should develop and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas development strategies. On 16 November 2016, the Obama Administration submitted such a strategy entitled “Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization” (The White House, 2016). The strategy sets an emissions reduction target of 80% or more below 2005 levels in 2050, incl. LULUCF. This target is equivalent to 68–76% below 2005 levels (63–73% below 1990), excl. LULUCF; the range depending on the magnitude of the LULUCF sinks. The Trump Administration has removed the mid-century strategy from all government websites. Once the US withdraws from the Paris Agreement, as it has indicated it will in 2020, it would no longer be required to formulate such a strategy.