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Congress not needed to cut greenhouse gases 17 pct. by 2020

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Congress chose in 2010 not to pass cap-and-trade legislation that would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.

But the U.S. does not need legislation to meet the intermediate target of reducing emissions by 17 percent by 2020 — also an international commitment made by President Barack Obama in Copenhagen in 2009 and renewed by the administration in Qatar in 2012.

Several aggressive steps would be required, according to a report released Feb. 6 by the policy analysis nonprofit the World Resources Institute. Among them:

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would need to pursue "go-getter" emissions reductions from power plants and natural gas systems using its authority under the Clean Air Act. These emissions represent 48 percent of the gap between "business as usual" and a 17 percent reduction by 2020;
  • The administration would need to pursue reductions in emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning and refrigeration and represent 23 percent of the gap;
  • States would need to enact complementary energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation and other measures — 8 percent of the emissions gap.

However, to support international goals of keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 450 parts per million and climate warming below 2 degrees Centigrade, new federal legislation eventually will be needed, the study said.