April 22, 2021 Read More →

Gauging ambition of U.S. climate goal depends on the starting point

New York Times ($):

The United States officially has a new goal for fighting climate change over the next decade. So how ambitious is it?

President Biden announced Thursday that America would aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s one of the more aggressive near-term targets among wealthy industrialized nations, although the cuts are arguably not quite as large as what the European Union and Britain have already promised.

Comparing national pledges to cut emissions can be surprisingly tricky — a lot depends on the year you start counting from. The United States has decided to measure its reductions from 2005, which is roughly when the nation’s fossil fuel emissions reached a peak. But European countries tend to measure their reductions from 1990, when emissions began falling across the continent as a result of early climate policies and the collapse of polluting Communist economies in the East.

The later baseline makes the United States target look a bit better, because it omits a period when emissions were rising. An earlier baseline makes Europe look more ambitious, since it has been cutting for longer.

[Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich]

More: The U.S. Has a New Climate Goal. How Does It Stack Up Globally?

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