This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

December 02, 2009

President Obama Sets a Target for Cutting U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The White House announced on November 25 that President Obama is offering a U.S. target for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The proposed target agrees with the limit set by climate legislation that has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but the U.S. Senate is currently considering a bill that cuts GHG emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. The White House noted that the final U.S. emissions target will ultimately fall in line with the climate legislation, once that legislation passes both houses of Congress and is approved by the President. In light of the President's goal for an 83% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, the pending legislation also includes a reduction in GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2025 and to 42% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The White House also announced that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen on December 9 to participate in the United Nations climate change conference. A number of top White House officials and cabinet members will also attend the conference, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu. For the first time, the U.S. delegation will establish a U.S. Center at the conference, providing a unique and interactive forum to share the United States' story with the world. The center will feature keynote speeches by top U.S. officials from December 9 through December 17, including a December 14 speech by Secretary Chu on U.S. leadership in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The U.S. Department of State has also established the "COP-15" Web site and a Facebook page to mark the event. The U.N. climate change conference is officially known as the 15th annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP-15 for short. See the White House press release and the State Department's press release, COP-15 Web site, and COP-15 Facebook Page.

The day after the White House announced the U.S. GHG targets, China announced that it will reduce the intensity of its carbon dioxide emissions by 40%-45% (relative to 2005) by 2020. Carbon dioxide emissions intensity is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). China expects its GDP to at least double by 2020, which could potentially result in a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions, but the new target would hold the increase in carbon dioxide emissions to 20% or less under a doubling of GDP. However, DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects a 218% gain in GDP (that is, more than triple) by 2020, which would mean an emissions growth of 75%-91% above 2005 levels. The carbon intensity target will be a binding goal that China will incorporate into its medium- and long-term development plans. China also announced plans to invest in the research, development, and commercialization of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, as well as other low-carbon energy technologies. The country plans to draw on non-fossil-fuel energy sources for 15% of its energy needs by 2020 and will encourage low-carbon lifestyles and consumption. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen. See the announcement on the Chinese Government's official Web portal and the EIA's GDP projections (MS Excel 20 KB).