Good News from the USA? Lester Brown Sees Sharp Emission Reduction, Thanks in Part to Civil Society

According to an online piece by Lester Brown, US greenhouse gas emissions may be at a turning point and may drop by 20% or even 30% by 2020.

Emissions have dropped by 7% since 2007. A good part of this was due to the financial crisis, but according to Brown another crucial factor has been the “Beyond Coal” campaign by the Sierra Club, which has lead to a de facto moratorium on new coal plants. The campaign is now moving on to existing plants. The oldest and dirtiest plants may be shut down by (hopefully) forthcoming air quality regulations.

In addition, residential electricity use is expected to drop by 5% this decade due to a shift to more efficient lighting and electric appliances. And renewables may finally take off. According to Brown, about 300,000 MW of new wind power capacity are in the pipeline as well as 22,000 MW of utility-scale solar power, not counting residential installations.

Brown also sees oil use falling, thanks to new vehicle efficiency standards, rising oil prices and an ongoing shift to public transport and bicycles.

Especially the last bit sounds too good to be true… A reduction by 20% compared to 2007 levels would mean that the USA would actually meet the emission reduction pledge it has made in Copenhagen. Which many people have been doubtful about since the failure of Congress to pass a climate bill. A reduction by 30% would start to get into the dimension of what is actually needed to keep temperature increase below 2°C. So here’s to hoping that Brown’s projection is right.

In other US commentary, Jem Porcaro of Climate Neutral thinks that California’s introduction of an emission trading system may help convince the rest of the country that it actually is possible to emissions without wrecking the economy.

(…) Californians realize that while market-based environmental regulations like cap-and-trade can increase costs and job losses in certain polluting industries, projected losses are often significantly overstated and are generally offset by job creation in other cleaner industries and by wider societal benefits like improved health. For example, despite almost apocalyptic predictions from industry-sponsored studies about the consequences of curbing sulfur-dioxide emissions from power plants in the early 1990s, there has been no evidence of an economic slowdown tied to this highly successful program.

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