Carbon Emission Targets and the US’s Participation in these Programs 

Some states in the United States have legal carbon and greenhouse gas emission targets but under the Trump administration, the country as a whole does not have legal carbon or greenhouse gas emission targets.

The Paris Agreement

The United States is in the process of pulling out of the Paris Agreement which is under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and whose participants determine, plan and regularly report on the contribution that they are undertaking to mitigate global warming. The current administration announced its intentions to withdraw the United States from the agreement in June of 2017. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date for U.S. withdrawal is not supposed to be until November of 2020 but changes in U.S. policy have already been made that are contrary to the stipulations it agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

The Kyoto Protocol

The United States had been a participant in the Kyoto Protocol whose first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012 but as of 2019, they have not ratified their participation. The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that currently has 192 countries in participation with it. Under the Protocol, countries commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the premise that global warming is in fact occurring and that it is very likely that its predominant cause is human-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate Change Laws in the US

The United States has made great strides towards environmental awareness and preservation in the past several decades but President Trump has begun to knock down many of these. In August of 2018, he announced his Affordable Clean Energy Rule that reversed President Obama’s seminal and necessary Clean Power Plan. The Affordable Clean Energy Rule has been under the guise of a rework of the Clean Power Plan where it gives individual states the autonomy to decide how to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants on a plant-by-plant basis- but it does not strive to achieve overall emissions cuts nor are there any base requirements for individual states to reduce emissions. It also gives power plants the power to circumvent pollution reviews when they call for facility modifications that the energy industry says are too expensive.

Proponents of The Affordable Clean Energy Rule say that it will buoy the nation’s aging coal infrastructure and will decrease its carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5% below projected levels for 2030. Other estimates suggest that this rule will increase emissions by at least 12 times that of the existing Clean Power Plan’s scenario.

Learn about climate change news and law with Climate Change In Our Hands.