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U.S. pledges 17 percent emissions reduction by 2020

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 29, 2010; A02

The United States pledged Thursday to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels under an international climate agreement, though it made its commitment contingent on passing legislation at home.

The Obama administration submitted its much-anticipated reduction target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat under the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding deal brokered by the United States last month at the U.N.-sponsored climate talks. Under the deal President Obama helped secure in Copenhagen, major emitters of greenhouse gases are expected to "inscribe" their reduction targets by Jan. 31.

The commitment states that the United States will cut its emissions "in the range of 17 percent, 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." It remains unclear if Congress will pass a comprehensive climate bill this year.

Ned Helme, president of the D.C.-based Center for Clean Air Policy, said as the deadline approaches, it is becoming clear that the world's biggest carbon emitters are going to follow through on voluntary pledges they made in the run-up to last month's talks.

"Now the smoke has cleared, people are now taking the Copenhagen Accord more seriously," Helme said. "You're going to see all the major players sign up."

Several key developing nations, such as China and India, have not yet indicated what they will commit to under the agreement.

Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, said in a statement Thursday the administration expects "that all major economies will honor their agreement in Copenhagen to submit their mitigation targets or actions as provided in the Accord."

On the same day the United States made its pledge public, the low-lying Marshall Islands announced it would reduce emissions 40 percent by 2020 under the accord. "If one of the smallest and most vulnerable island states can take action, the largest countries have no excuse not to follow our example," said Marshall Islands Foreign Minister John Silk.

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