Obama administration outlines steep cuts in greenhouse-gas pollution

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Tuesday outlined an ambitious plan for slashing U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution over the next decade, calling for accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Documents filed with the United Nations formally committed the United States to lowering total U.S. carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. White House officials called the plan “ambitious and achievable,” and said the pollution cuts could be made without hampering economic growth.

Most of the reductions would come from regulations already approved or proposed, including tougher fuel-economy standards for vehicles and a proposed curb on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants – a measure that Republican lawmakers have vowed to block.

The documents filled in the details of a pledge made in November, when the United States and China jointly announced commitments to dramatically reduce carbon pollution. Scores of other countries are expected to make similar pledges over the next seven months in preparation for international talks in Paris late this year on a proposed climate treaty.

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White House officials said the pollution cuts would reduce the threat of climate-related disruptions while also delivering tangible improvements in air quality and energy efficiency.

“These policies deliver real benefits to the American people,” Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said in a blog posting that announced the filing of the U.S. climate pledges to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the U.N. body that facilitates climate negotiations.

“The president’s fuel economy standards mean our cars can go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and because of higher efficiency and lower gas prices, drivers will save an average of $750 at the pump this year. When fully implemented, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 juvenile asthma attacks annually,” Deese said.

The details of the U.S. commitments come less than a week after Mexico vowed to cut its greenhouse gases by 22 percent, becoming the first emerging-market country to announce a commitment leading up to the Paris talks. Mexico also said it would make 2026 its peak year for emissions, promising that pollution levels would decline after that.

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Negotiators are hoping to use the individual pledges as a basis for a historic pact intended to gradually halt the growth of heat-trapping carbon in the Earth atmosphere. Scientists warn that some effects of global warming – such as melting ice sheets and rising sea levels – are now unstoppable, but an ambitious global pact could still prevent the worst impacts.

The administration goal’s will likely face significant resistance from the Republican-controlled Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier this month called on states to fight the administration’s proposed curbs on power plants, saying in a March 3 op-ed that the regulation “threatens to hurt a lot of people without doing much for the global environment.”

Environmental groups applauded the president’s pollution-cutting-plan. Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate-change program at the World Resources Institute, said the U.S. pledges showed that the administration was prepared to “lead by example on the climate crisis.”

“This is a serious and achievable commitment,” Morgan said.