World Resources Institute WRI

Can the U.S. get there from here? Using existing federal laws and state action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise unless additional policy actions are taken. This report identifies a suite of policies that the Administration can pursue that do not require new legislation by the U.S. Congress. If pursued with “go-getter” level ambition, those policies can reduce U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020.

Key Findings

  • Without new action by the U.S. Administration, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will increase over time. The United States will fail to make the deep emissions reductions needed in coming decades, and will not meet its international commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
  • The U.S. EPA should immediately pursue “go-getter” emissions reductions from power plants and natural gas systems using its authority under the Clean Air Act. These two sectors represent two of the top opportunities for substantial GHG reductions between now and 2035.
  • The U.S. Administration should pursue hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reductions through both the Montreal Protocol process and under its independent Clean Air Act authority. Eliminating HFCs represents the biggest opportunity for GHG emissions reductions behind power plants.
  • U.S. states should complement federal actions to reduce emissions through state energy efficiency, renewables, transportation, and other actions. States can augment federal reductions.
  • New federal legislation will eventually be needed, because even go-getter action by federal and state governments will probably fail to achieve the more than 80 percent GHG emissions reductions necessary to fend off the most deleterious impacts of climate change.

This chart shows potential reductions under existing federal authorities and state action through 2035.

Can the U.S. get there from here? Using existing federal laws and state action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Interactive Graphic
Can the U.S. Meet its Climate Change Goal?
The Obama Administration committed in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. While the Administration is not currently on track to meet this goal, it can pursue a suite of policies even without new legislation. If pursued with “go-getter” level ambition, those policies can achieve the 17 percent commitment.

Can the U.S. get there from here? Using existing federal laws and state action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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