On Climate, Paris Talk and U.S. Action
Posted December 14, 2015
The New York Times reports that weekend exultation over the new global climate agreement was quickly replaced by the realization that talking about emissions goals in Paris could be dwarfed by what it takes to produce actual results:
Before the applause had even settled … world leaders warned that momentum from the historic accord must not be allowed to dissipate. “Today, we celebrate,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union’s energy commissioner and top climate negotiator. “Tomorrow, we have to act.” With nearly every nation on Earth having now pledged to gradually reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases … much of the burden for maintaining the momentum shifts back to the countries to figure out, and carry out, the concrete steps needed to deliver on their vows.
Actually, the figuring out part has been done and real emissions reductions have been realized in the United States – without the heavy hand of government, without one-size-fits-all frameworks, without economy-hamstringing interventions. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:
“Our nation’s 21st-century energy renaissance, which has made domestically produced natural gas cheap and abundant, has helped us achieve substantial and sustained emissions reductions without command-and-control style regulatory intervention. Where other nations have pledges, we have progress and results.”
This chart shows the United States (big green bar in the middle) leads the world’s top 20 economies in change in carbon emissions from energy from 2005 to 2012, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the World Bank. As you can see, most nations are treading water. The United States is leading the way on action, thanks to increased use of natural gas produced by the domestic shale energy revolution.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis and per dollar of Gross Domestic Product have fallen while our population and economy have been growing, according to government figures.
Both charts sketch the “U.S. Model” on reducing emissions – one that is market-driven and occurring even as the United States grows. The model demonstrates that energy development, economic growth and emissions progress can occur together. Developing countries especially do not have to choose between securing more energy for their citizens and their economies and achieving climate objectives. Gerard:
“America’s private sector has already taken the lead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even as we increase economic activity and domestic energy production to keep energy reliable and affordable for consumers. Our success is driven, not by government mandate or legislative fiat, but through innovation, investment and entrepreneurial spirit. … The United States has become the world leader in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. And EPA data show that methane emissions are also plummeting, with the largest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells.”
Indeed, below we see that while the development of shale natural gas has climbed dramatically, equally dramatic is the simultaneous drop in methane emissions. As Gerard noted, emissions from fracked natural gas wells have dropped 79 percent since 2005, according to EPA.
Again, the agreement forged in Paris leaves it up to individual countries to reduce emissions, and as such the U.S. Model should resonate broadly. That is, among nations that want to continue growing while making significant progress on emissions. Come to think of it, that should be just about everyone.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and five grandchildren.
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