The recent Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump to roll back many of the country’s climate and energy regulations has set the country on a path to miss its Paris Agreement commitment for 2025 by a large margin, forcing the Climate Action Tracker to move the US from “medium” to an “inadequate” CAT rating.
According to the Climate Action Tracker — an independent scientific analysis produced by Climate Analytics, Ecofys, and the NewClimate Institute — if the new Executive Order is carried out in full, US emissions in 2025 and 2030 would remain around the same as they are today, instead of the 13% decrease from 2014 levels needed to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the Paris Agreement.
The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has a rating for each of the countries which have submitted NDCs, and in 2016 CAT rated the US’s NDC as “Medium” — “not yet consistent with limiting global warming to 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, unless other governments make much deeper reductions.” In a new briefing published by CAT, the United States’ ranking has been reduced to “Inadequate” — “a level of action that, if followed by all other countries, would put the world on a pathway consistent with a 4 degree C global average warming,” and a move which would drop the United States to the bottom of the global climate action league.
Emissions projections for the USA: The grey shading shows the possible “Trump effect,” as the administration moves away from emissions reductions that the Obama Administration had planned. The dark blue dotted line shows emissions based on current policies, but excluding the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The solid blue line shows the expected emissions trajectory with the CPP. The purple dotted line shows the emissions level the Obama Administration was striving for with the CPP and the Climate Action Plan (CAP). The rescission of the Climate Action Plan means the US will overshoot its Paris Agreement target (black squares).
It’s important to note, however, that while President Trump’s actions will hurt and slow the country’s progress, it cannot wholly reverse the work already done. “The Executive Order will not easily reverse the trends that have driven down US emissions in recent years,” the CAT researchers said in their full briefing (PDF). “Although the order begins the process of “suspending, revising, and rescinding” currently implemented policies, these steps are likely to be subject to legal disputes over the coming years and will therefore have a delayed impact on emissions.” Such legal disputes may very well halt the effectiveness of the Executive Order until President Trump is out of office in four years, allowing for the roll-backs to themselves be rolled back. “In addition, unstoppable market pressures (e.g. the low cost of renewables) and actions at state and local levels (e.g. a separate car fuel efficiency standard in California) will continue to drive developments that decrease greenhouse gas emissions.”
“It is almost certain that as a consequence of President Trump’s Executive Order this week, the USA will miss its 2025 NDC target — not that it would fully reverse existing trends on renewables or efficient cars, but because it will prevent new policies in other areas planned by the Obama administration from being implemented,” said Professor Niklas Höhne, of New Climate Institute.
“If all other countries were to follow the United States in lowering the level of ambition and rolling back action on climate change, the world would warm by around four degrees over this century, a warming rate and level not seen on the planet for 55 million years,” added Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.
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