Countries Made Bold Climate Promises Last Year. How Are They Doing?
The year’s top climate progress story was probably the decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to withdraw the United States from the highly controversial Paris Climate Treaty. That’s not to say Obama went easy on the environment in his first term — his administration was busy suing the oil industry and rolling back clean car standards. But he got the Paris deal right, even if he can’t bring it to fruition despite his best efforts.
In fact, President Donald J. Trump’s administration, which has been a disappointment to many environmental activists, pulled out of the Paris accord a month after taking office. Many environmental groups reacted with dismay and resignation. Many supporters — myself included — rejoiced.
And then Obama had an epiphany and realized he had to pull out. Just months after he signed the climate treaty into law, President Obama’s climate team released a new global environment plan for 2017 and 2018 that looked like this:
In other words: Everything Obama hoped for in Paris is still on the table.
Of course, many of the details were still to be ironed out. But it’s clear, based on the plan’s text, that this is the direction the administration is going in. And that, in and of itself, might be seen as good news.
The plan lays out some ambitious targets, including a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and then to zero by 2050. The plan envisions meeting those goals by investing $3.8 trillion in renewable energy technologies through 2027, $2.6 trillion in carbon-reducing projects through 2027, and $1.9 trillion in infrastructure projects through 2027. It also calls for the United States to increase its share of global clean energy investment from 15 percent to 20 percent by 2020.
On the environment, Obama had a clear goal: He wanted to keep the United States on track for a clean energy economy. This plan looks like the blueprint that he would have adopted if he’d pulled out of the Paris accord.
But Obama’s plan also looks like something President Trump would have adopted if he hadn’t pulled out. The president’s administration had a plan for cutting net U.S. carbon emissions by 28 percent