Thirteen states representing almost 40 percent of the U.S. economy, along with the mayors of nearly 200 cities and more than 900 business leaders, have signed different pledges to continue tackling climate change and reducing fossil fuel emissions, despite the decision of U.S. president Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Most of read more…
|Year||Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF ( MtCO2e)||Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per Capita ( tCO2e Per Capita)||Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per GDP ( tCO2e / Million $ GDP)|
The line chart shows the country’s carbon emissions by year, expressed in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for emission totals, and in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) for per capita and per dollar of GDP values. It is based on data from CAIT platform provided by the World Resource Insititute, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.
By selecting or deselecting each item, you can compare or give prominence to particular emission trends.
|Energy Source||Production (ktoe)||TPES (ktoe)|
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The double-doughnut chart shows the country’s energy production and TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), expressed in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). It is built on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency libraries, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.
The INNER RING represents the country’s energy production from each energy source, corresponding to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced.
The OUTER RING shows the country’s total primary energy supply of each fuel. It represents the net quantities of fuels made available on the domestic market, after foreign transfers and trading. According to IEA’s definition, TPES equals production plus imports minus exports minus international bunkers plus or minus stock changes.
Differences between production and TPES are significant as they highlight the actual country’s behaviour in the matter of a given energy source. Production values and TPES values of the same energy source may vary widely, especially in case of the much-traded fossil fuels.
The US takes a regulatory rather than legislative approach to addressing climate change, primarily folding climate policy into energy policy. Initiatives are often led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Department of Energy (DOE). This is attributed to the unsuccessful attempts to pass climate legislation in Congress.
Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth 2017
The Executive Order was put forward by the Trump administration in March 2017 and radically changes the course of climate policy. Accordingly, the executive departments and agencies are tasked to “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary” (Section 1c). Thereby, particular attention should be paid to the domestic energy resources oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy (Section 2a). The Executive Order refers explicitly to certain regulatory actions that should be revoked, including parts of the Climate Action Plan (Section 3). In addition, the Clean Power Plan (see below) is supposed to be reviewed and, if necessary, be revised or rescinded. However, as the EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHGs, an alternative policy replacing the Clean Power Plan would have to be put in place. Moreover, the estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) shall be reviewed (Section 5). The SCC is used by federal agencies to price in the climate impacts caused by CO2 in their decision-making. The EPA for instance used the SCC to set the fuel economy standards. Hence, removing or reducing the SCC would make the implementation of regulations that reduce emissions more difficult. Furthermore, the moratorium on federal land coal leasing shall be amended or withdrawn (Section 6). Emission standards for the oil and gas production, especially for methane, are supposed to be revised or rescinded as well (Section 7). When signing the executive order, Trump said that he would take “historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations”. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from the US are expected to stay roughly the same or even slightly increase over the next few years. Legal disputes are expected to delay the impact on emissions, but it is almost certain that the US will miss its NDC target for 2025 (see “International Policy”).
The President’s Climate Action Plan 2013
On June 25, 2013, the former US President Barak Obama announced the Climate Action Plan, thereby using his executive authority to push forward a climate change agenda. The plan consisted of three sections: reducing carbon pollution in the US, preparing the US for the impacts of climate change, and international efforts to address climate change. National level mitigation was focused on clean energy, transport, cutting energy waste, and other GHG emissions.
The Climate Action Plan highlighted a path towards a clean energy economy by reducing carbon pollution from power plants and accelerating clean energy leadership. The Plan directed the EPA to establish the first-ever restrictions on carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of unregulated emissions in the United States, accounting for 1/3 of domestic emissions, by 2016. The EPA was to issue carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, while building on state leadership, providing flexibility, and taking advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies. This was implemented by the Clean Power Plan of 2013, which aimed to reduce emissions from the power sector by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 by setting targets for each state individually. However, the CPP was blocked by the Supreme Court in February 2016 and its legal status remained uncertain afterwards.
The Climate Action Plan set the goal of doubling electric generation from renewable sources (wind, solar, and geothermal) by 2020, by accelerating clean energy permitting on public lands, expanding and modernising the electric grid, and supporting clean energy innovation. It increased funding for clean energy technologies by 30 percent in the next fiscal year and set significant deployment of renewables on federally-subsidized houses and military installations by 2025.
The Plan focused on cutting emissions from the transportation sector by increasing fuel economy standards, and supporting advanced transportation technologies – cleaner transportation fuels, alternative marine fuels, and improved transportation options.
With the goal of doubling energy productivity by 2030 relative to 2010 levels, the Climate Action Plan aimed to increase energy efficiency in homes, businesses, and factories by establishing a new goal for energy efficiency standards, reducing barriers to investment in energy efficiency, and expanding the President’s Better Buildings Challenge.
The Plan outlined strategies for cutting other greenhouse gas emissions, specifically hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane, two pollutants that trap even more heat than carbon dioxide in the near term.
The Climate Action Plan called for the Federal government and the US Military to lead by example with clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives. The goal for the Federal government was to cover 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, pursue greater energy efficiency, and support new energy technologies (document available in pdf).
Clean Air Act 1963 (2009 endangerment finding)
The Clean Air Act is the law that defines EPA’s responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. It is a federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level. It requires the EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the general public from exposure to airborne contaminants that are known to be hazardous to human health.
The EPA is also required to regulate pollutants under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act for their effect as greenhouse gases, following the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2009, based on the “endangerment finding” that six key greenhouse gases constitute a threat to public health and welfare, and that the combined emissions from motor vehicles cause and contribute to the climate change problem. Relying on this finding, EPA finalised GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks on April 1, 2010. The implementation of these standards has, in turn, triggered permitting requirements and the imposition of Best Available Control Technology for new major stationary sources of GHGs as of January 2, 2011 (document available in pdf).
Just as the Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan, the actions of the EPA under the Clean Air Act have faced strong opposition from the Republican Party. This lead to many challenges in court and vetoes by the then US president Barack Obama as well as to considerable cut in the budget of the EPA of around 20 percent between 2010 and 2014.
The US had the second-largest renewable energy capacity investments in 2015. In that year, tit was first for biofuels and second for wind and geothermal capacity additions. In general, the US has the second-largest installed capacity of renewable energies in 2015, irrespective of whether hydropower is included or not. However, there are large regional differences in the capacity additions between the various states (for more information see here).
Executive Order 13514 of 2009
October 5, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, which aims to make GHG emission management a priority for federal agencies by establishing reporting requirements with detailed targets and deadlines. The Order is focused on transportation, energy use, and energy procurement policies. All federal agencies are required to develop, implement, and annually update a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (document available in pdf).
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009
In February 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at the urging of President Obama, who signed it into law four days later as a direct response to the economic crisis.
The Recovery Act, that includes a section focused on “clean, efficient, American energy”, seeks in part to spur technological advances in science and health and to invest in environmental protection and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits. The Act allocates US$94 billion in direct and indirect spending for renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, low carbon vehicles, smart grids, and mass transit (document available in pdf).
Energy Independence and Security Act 2007
Signed on December 19, 2007 by President Bush, the Act introduces measures to expand the production of renewable fuels, reduce US dependence on oil, and increase energy security. It sets a mandatory Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that requires fuel producers to use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022, and provides incentives for the development of renewable energy technologies. It also includes appliance/lighting efficiency standards, including a phase out of the use of incandescent light bulbs by 2014, and improved lighting efficiency by more than 70 percent by 2020 (document available in pdf).
Executive Order 13423 of 2007
On January 24, 2007, President Bush issued an executive order, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, requiring federal agencies to conduct their transportation and energy‐related activities in an environmentally, economically and fiscally sound, and integrated way (document available in pdf).
Energy Policy Act (Energy Bill) 2005
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58) is a statute, which was passed by the United States Congress on July 29, 2005 and signed into law on August 8, 2005. The Act provides tax incentives and loan guarantees for energy production of various types. Major items to mitigate climate change include: a tax credit of up to US-$ 3,400 for owners of hybrid vehicles, various tax breaks by sector, a requirement for federal facilities to draw a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources, and loan guarantees for “innovative technologies” that avoid greenhouse gases, which might include advanced nuclear reactor designs (such as PBMR) as well as clean coal and renewable energy (document available in pdf).
The Energy Policy Act is partially superseded by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (see above).
The US Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force is responsible for coordinating the efforts for adaptation across government agencies according to the Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, from October 2009. The Task Force is co-chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and includes representatives from more than 20 federal agencies. Under this executive order, each federal agency must evaluate their climate change risks and vulnerabilities to manage the effects of climate change on the agency’s mission and operations in both the short and long-term as part of the formal Strategic Sustainability Performance Planning process. The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force then recommends ways for federal policies and programs to better prepare the nation for climate change (document available in pdf).
The federal government, including agency programs and activities, supports scientific research, observational capabilities, and assessments necessary to improve the understanding of and response to climate change and its impacts on the US, in accordance with the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), established by section 103 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (15 U.S.C. 2933).
The Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience consists of state, local, and tribal leaders who are responsible for advising the administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities that are dealing with the impacts of climate change, in accordance with Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the impacts of Climate Change, November 2013. Federal agencies are responsible for modernising federal programmes to support climate-resilient investments, managing lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience, providing information, data and tools for climate change preparedness and resilience, and planning for climate change related risk. The Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House, directs federal agencies to consider the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (document available in pdf).
SUBNATIONAL CLIMATE POLICIES
There is substantial action going on also on the sub-national level. Especially California has been praised for its efforts. Since 2013, the state operates a cap-and-trade scheme, which has been linked to the one of Québec in 2014. The system is supposed to contribute to California’s goal to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent compared to 1990 by 2050. In addition, California is pursuing a target of renewable energies of 50 percent renewable energies by 2050, of 1.5 million electric vehicles and has launched an electricity storage mandate of 1.325 GW. Texas, which has been perceived for long time as a heartland of the oil and gas production, is substantially engaged in promoting wind power. In addition, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative of nine eastern states and the California-led Western Climate Initiative exemplify the commitments on the state level. In June 2016, in total 29 states as well as Washington D.C. and three US territories had renewable energy policies in place and even more had implemented net metering schemes. Also on the city level, climate change is tackled. For instance, New York City has developed a green growth plan including a target to reduce emissions by 30 percent over the period 2005 to 2030. In 2013, the GHG emissions had already been cut by 19 percent. However, there are also states, especially in the south of the U.S., that almost entirely lack any climate change efforts or support for sustainable energy.
As a consequence of the announcement of President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, many subnational entities and businesses have pledged to continue tackling climate change and reducing fossil fuel emissions. Most of them are part of a declaration called ‘We are still in’.
Nachmany, M., Frankhauser, S., Davidová, J., Kingsmill, N., Landesman, T., Roppongi, H., Schleifer, P., Setzer, J., Sharman, A., Singleton, C.S., Sundaresan, J., Townshend, T., 2017c, Climate Change Legislation in the United States of America: An Excerpt from The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study – A Review of Climate Change Legislation in 99 Countries, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment; The London School of Economics and Political Science.
Steinbacher, K., 2016, ‘The United States: Domestic Transitions and International Leadership Towards Low-Carbon Energy’, in: S. Roehrkasten, S. Thielges, R. Quitzow (eds), Sustainable Energy in the G20: Prospects for a Global Energy Transition, 103–108.
Stern, N., 2015, Why are we waiting?: The logic, urgency, and promise of tackling climate change, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Party to the UNFCCC (Annex I):
- Date of signature: 12 June 1992;
- Date of ratification: 15 October 1992;
- Date of entry into force: 21 March 1994.
- The US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol:
- Date of signature: 29 November 1998;
- Date of ratification: —
- Date of entry into force: —
- Date of Acceptance of Doha Amendment: —
- Signatory of the Copenhagen Accord, with proposed emissions reductions by 2020 of about 17% from 2005 levels, in conformity with US energy and climate legislation (see official communication to the UNFCCC)
- Party to the Paris Agreement
- Date of signature: 22 April 2016
- Date of acceptance: 3 September 2016
- Date of entry into force: 4 November 2016
- On June 1, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced to withdraw from the Paris Agreement!
- Post 2020 action
- Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in advance of the COP21 (Paris), on March 31, 2015 (for more information on INDCs see here). Following the ratification and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the INDC has become the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of the US under the Paris Agreement. The main target is to achieve an economy-wide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 level in 2025 (including emissions from LULUCF).
- The US is a member of the G7/G8 and the G20. It has also joined the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
- Promoter of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), an initiative launched in March 2009 by former President Barack Obama to bring together the world’s 17 largest emitters to advance key issues under consideration in international climate change negotiations. It followed the Major Emitters and Energy Consumers Process (MEP) that was initiated in 2007 by the then President George W. Bush. The MEP was not only a forum of dialogue but also aimed to define a long-term goal for greenhouse gas emission reductions and envisioned nationally-determined targets and actions as a contribution to this goal. It was pretended that the MEP would support and enhance the ongoing work under the UNFCCC although it has provoked strong criticism from many smaller developing countries.
Source: McGee, 2011, ‘Exclusive Minilateralism: An Emerging Discourse within International Climate Change Governance?’. Portal Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 8 (3), 1–29.
- The US also promoted the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) which comprised only seven countries. It consisted of a governing body and eight sectoral forces which were tasked to elaborate on concrete projects and plans. The APP was abandoned only after five years and had little impact on the emission of the members. Similarly to the MEP, the APP was accused to undermine the legitimacy and supremacy of the UNFCCC.
Source: Falkner, 2015, ‘A minilateral solution for global climate change? On bargaining efficiency, club benefits and international legitimacy’. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment working paper 197.
- Part of the Global Methane Initiative, formerly known as Methane to Markets Partnership, launched by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is an international initiative to advance cost-effective, near-term reductions of methane emissions. Signatory nations will collaborate with other governments and the private sector to reduce global methane emissions and enhance economic growth, promote energy security, and improve the environment. Other Partnership aims include improving mine safety, reducing waste, and improving local air quality. The Partnership seeks to reduce aggregate annual methane emissions by 50 MtCO2 equivalent by 2015.
- The US is participating as well in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), which aims to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and HFCs.
- The US forms part of the NDC Partnership, which assists countries in achieving their climate commitments and the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has established the Environmental Cooperation-Asia Clean Development and Climate Program (ECO-Asia), aimed at catalysing policy and finance solutions for clean energy in Asia’s largest developing economies through targeted technical assistance and training, regional cooperation, and knowledge sharing.
- The 2013 Climate Action Plan (see also “National Policy”) calls for the US to engage in addressing climate change at the global level. Many of the provisions within the plan are not new; rather the Plan reinforces a commitment to driving action through international negotiations and international initiatives. The Plan advocates enhancing multilateral engagement with major economies, expanding bilateral cooperation with major emerging economies, combating short lived climate pollutants, reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, expanding clean energy use and cutting energy waste, negotiating global free trade in environmental goods and services, phasing out subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels, leading global sector public financing towards cleaner energy, strengthening global resilience to climate change, and mobilizing climate finance (document available here or as pdf).
- During the presidency of Barack Obama, the bilateral cooperation with China had a high importance. With the Joint Announcement in 2014, the both countries indicated the 2030 targets as they were finally contained in their INDCs. Moreover, the announcement contains the reference to the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances”, as extended compared to the formulation in the UN Climate Convention. This represented an important agreement on the way to the Paris COP21. The Joint Presidential Statement of 2015 recalls these aspects and writes down the vision of the two countries for the agreement to be agreed a few months later in Paris as well as enhances the bilateral cooperation of the both countries. Finally, the Joint Presidential Statement of 2016 expresses the will of the both countries to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement, which was implemented at the side-lines of the G20 summit in China in September 2016.
- The US is cooperating with Canada and Mexico under the North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership, which has also resulted in a respective Action Plan in 2016.
- The US was one of the initiators of Mission Innovation that was announced at COP21 in Paris in 2015. The member countries committed as part of the Mission Innovation to double their clean energy research and development (R&D) investments until 2020 (more information available here and on the website of Mission Innovation).
- The US has pledged US-$ 3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). However, the US made some conditions attached to its contribution. For instance, the pledge is not to exceed 30 percent of total confirmed pledges. A significant portion of its pledge will go to the GCF’s Private Sector Facility, and the US could decide to put some of its $3 billion pledge into other multilateral climate funds, which include the Climate Investment Funds or the Global Environment Facility.
Before Donald Trump took office, Barack Obama transferred another US-$ 500 million to the GCF, which left US-$ 2 billion still to be disbursed to meet the pledge. However, during his speech announcing the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, President Donald Trump announced to cess the remaining U.S. contribution to the GCF. In his budget proposal, Trump already proposed in March 2017 deep cuts for foreign aid, including international climate finance.
- The State of California is also a member of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC).
The U.S. is part of the Umbrella Group in the UNFCCC negotiations.
During the COP17 in Durban in 2011, the U.S. took a hard-nosed, conservative negotiating position, refusing to agree on legal commitments to reducing its own emissions. In the words of U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change at COP17, Todd Stern, the U.S. has no objection to a post-2020 treaty, as long as it is “applicable to all Parties” as laid down in the Durban decision. Countries would have to accept obligations and commitments that have the same legal force. Nevertheless, this would not imply that all countries are treated the same “on the same footing” – differentiation “should be thought of along a spectrum” where capacities are decisive. As a consequence, Stern advocated for a “flexible” deal in which countries would not have to abide to the same rules but could set their own respective targets to spur ambition.
During Obama’s second term of presidency, climate change became one of the top three priorities. At COP21, the U.S. belonged to the High Ambition Coalition – an amalgamation of over 100 countries calling for an ambitious climate agreement. In his speech at COP21, then president Obama highlighted the need to send a strong signal to business and investors by agreeing upon a new agreement. Nevertheless, the position described above was still evident at COP21 and in the aftermath until COP22. The U.S. continued to have a strong emphasis on national sovereignty and national determinedness of contributions with a flexible approach to differentiation – including the provision of support to countries that actually need it to implement climate actions and for reporting. But the U.S. also stressed the need to come up with quantifiable mitigation efforts in the national contributions. It was also apparent that the U.S. underscored the need for and the high profile of adaptation. With respect to climate finance, the U.S. took the position that also developing countries in a position to do so should contribute. Moreover, the U.S. regularly underlined the necessity of domestic enabling environments in recipient developing countries. Regarding the enhanced transparency system established by the Paris Agreement, the U.S. highlighted repeatedly that it is applicable to all and not divided into developed and developing countries while acknowledging the different starting points. Hence, flexibility should only apply to those developing countries that truly need it and only with respect to provisions that actually require flexibility. The U.S. had also a more flexible notion of the global stocktake by collecting inputs before each stocktake and a prominent role of co-facilitators to deal with the different items of the stocktake (mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation) in Party-driven discussions. In line with other more progressive groups, the U.S. also advocated for a political phase to follow the technical considerations under the global stocktake.
Sources: Submissions and statements of the U.S. during the UNFCCC negotiations between COP21 and COP22 as accessible on the UNFCCC submission portal.
With the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, the U.S. has changed its position on climate change. As already mentioned above, Trump announced on June 1, 2017, that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Trump had already vowed to cancel the Paris Agreement during his presidential campaign and there had been speculations if the U.S. will step out of the Paris Agreement or even the UNFCCC for a long time before the official announcement. The Trump decision is at odd with the position of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said that the U.S. should maintain “its seat at the table”.
The U.S. has sent a delegation to the intersessional UNFCCC meeting in Bonn in May 2017 as usual but with a significantly lower number of delegates. In general, there have not been any noticeable incidences at the negotiations.