US Makes Copenhagen Climate Pledge Official (Sort of)


The United States committed to cutting emissions 17 percent by 2020 under the Copenhagen Accord on Thursday. But it attached a pretty big caveat. The commitment only takes effect if Congress passes legislation requiring those reductions. That’s one very monumental “if.”

The US was responding to a Jan. 31 deadline by which all countries who had joined the Copenhagen Accord in Denmark in December had to list their non-binding pledges to cut greenhouse gases. The US promised to cut emissions “in the range of 17%, in conformity with anticipated U.S. energy and climate legislation, recognizing that the final target will be reported to the Secretariat in light of enacted legislation.”

The US Climate Action Network has been keeping track of commitments from other countries. Only 26 countries out of 192 countries have associated with the accord so far (the document was so hotly contested that no nations agreed to formally sign it.) However, those countries represent approximately 72 percent of total worldwide emissions.

While the US commitment is wishy-washy, on Friday the Obama administration did announce a plan to reduce the federal government’s emissions 28 percent by 2020. White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley told reporters the aim was for the government to “lead by example.”

And it’s not a small example: the federal government is the country’s largest individual consumer of power, representing an estimated 1.5 percent of the country’s total energy use. It spent $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008, and it is responsible for 500,00 buildings, 600,000 vehicles, and purchases $500 billion in goods and services each year. Sutley estimated that if the government meets its targets, it would save 205 million barrels of oil each year and would be the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road.

Of course, this is only a drop in the bucket when compared to the emissions produced by the entire US. But after Obama’s disappointing comments on energy in his State of the Union address earlier in the week, it was a welcome piece of good news on the environment front.

 

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate