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Kerry: US on track to meet its Copenhagen goals


One takeaway from the Administration’s 2014 Climate Action Report is that for a host of reasons, some planned and some by luck/market forces, the US is in a better place in greenhouse gas emissions than it was in 2005.

“I’m proud to say that we are closer than we’ve ever been to a breakthrough”, said Secretary of State John Kerry in the preface to the 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report. Citing a 6.5 drop in GHG emissions from 2005, Secretary Kerry said “President Obama’s Climate Action Plan will keep the US on track to reach our goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions [by] 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.”

Put another way: the US is now in a place where it can close the emissions gap with regulatory authority like power plant carbon rules, support for renewables, methane emissions rules, etc. The 17 percent goal is at least within sighting distance.

Here is what the mix of US primary energy sources and totals look like:

And more specifics on the drops and increases in US GHG emissions (full PDF here).

The drops:

  • Principally due to a shift from coal to natural gas, as well as rapidly growing deployment of renewable sources of energy, CO2 emissions from electricity generation decreased by 10 percent below 2005 levels in 2011.
  • From 2005 through 2011, transportation emissions dropped by 8 percent due, in part, to increased fuel efficiency across the U.S. vehicle fleet, as well as higher fuel prices, and an associated decrease in the demand for passenger transportation.
  • Emissions from industry have steadily declined since 2005 (11.2 percent), due to structural changes in the U.S. economy (e.g., shifts from a manufacturing-based to a service-based economy), fuel switching, and efficiency improvements.
  • The residential and commercial end-use sectors accounted for 21 and 18 percent, respectively, of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in 2011, including each sector’s “indirect” emissions from electricity consumption. Both sectors relied heavily on electricity to meet energy demands; 71 and 77 percent, respectively, of residential and commercial emissions were attributable to electricity consumption for lighting, heating, cooling, and operating appliances. Emissions from the residential and commercial end-use sectors, including direct and indirect emissions from electricity consumption, have decreased by 7.3 percent and 6.5 percent since 2005, respectively.
  • Emissions from natural gas systems, the largest anthropogenic source of CH4 emissions, have decreased by 9 percent since 2005, due largely to a decrease in emissions from field production.
  • Land use, land use changes, and forests (LULUCF) activities in 2011 resulted in a net carbon sequestration of 905 Tg CO2e, which, in aggregate, offset 13.5 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. Forest management practices, tree planting in urban areas, the management of agricultural soils, and growth in other carbon pools resulted in a net uptake (sequestration) of carbon in the United States.

The increases:

  • Agricultural soil management, mobile source fuel combustion, and stationary fuel combustion were the major sources of N2O emissions, which increased slightly from 2005 levels.
  • Emissions of substitutes for ozone-depleting substances and emissions of HFC-23 during the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 were the primary contributors to aggregate HFC emissions, which as a class of fluorinated gases increased by 12.2 percent since 2005. PFC emissions rose by 13 percent, resulting from semiconductor manufacturing and as a by-product of primary aluminum production.

And it shouldn’t go without mentioning how important it is to have the US’s climate plans and goals out there in public.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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