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Bridge for Sale

The U.S. commitment in the U.S. – China climate agreement is “to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.”

Let’s do the numbers.

Because we have already reduced our net emissions from 6,223 million metric tons (“MMT”) in 2005 to 5,546 MMT in 2012, taking the low (26%) end of the goal means reducing those 2012 emissions by 941 MMT by 2025. (We use 2012 figures because that is the starting point for what we actually need to accomplish; all figures are from EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2012, which is the official U.S. report to the UNFCCC.)  In turn, and even assuming full implementation of the Clean Power Plan by 2025 (five years ahead of schedule), this means reducing the 2012 non-power sector emissions by 600 MMT over the next ten years.

There are two problems here.  First, the EIA predicts that, due to economic growth, emissions will increase by 236 MMT by 2025 (Annual Energy Outlook 2014, p. A-5).  While the Clean Power Plan ostensibly deals with EIA’s predicted increase of 155 MMT in power sector emissions (id. p. IF-38), that still leaves another 81 MMT of expected growth.1 Thus we’re actually talking about eliminating 681 MMT over the next ten years.

Problem No. 2 is that apart from the Clean Power Plan, the only significant reductions on the horizon are from the 2017-2025 light-duty vehicle rule, which should  achieve a 140 MMT reduction by 2025 (77 FR  62892).  That still leaves 541 MMT…

The White House announcement referred to three other emission reduction measures.  First is the next round of heavy-duty engine standards (for MY 2019 and beyond), but no matter how stringent they are, they will achieve almost nothing by 2025.  In fact, the first round of those standards is projected to reduce 76 MMT by 2030, which for argument’s sake we’ll credit all of that by 2025, leaving 465 MMT still to go.

Then there are “energy efficiency standards”, which is an example of double-counting, as these are already factored into the EIA and Clean Power Plan projections.  And the last measure is a catch-all of “actions to cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards.”  However, we could eliminate 100% of the 2012 methane emissions from landfills, coal mining and O&G systems (321 MMT) – and there are not even proposed standards for any of these sectors — and still be 144 MMT short of the goal.  And nobody, but nobody, is touching agriculture.

We wonder what the White House is thinking.

1 The Clean Power Plan’s goal is to reduce 2005 power sector emissions (2,402 MMT) by 30% (720 MMT).  As of 2012, power sector emissions were down 379 MMT to 2,023 MMT, meaning that the Plan aims for further reductions of 341 MMT by 2030.