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U.S. makes strides in reducing emissions

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

On the eve of the release of a landmark climate-change report, U.S. officials said on Thursday that the nation is making progress in cutting its heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions but still has “more work to do.”

Average emissions were lower from 2009-11 than in any three-year period since 1994-96 and are on the way to meeting President Obama's pledge to cut them 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, according to a State Department report to the United Nations.

“The United States has already made significant progress, including doubling generation of electricity from wind and solar power and establishing historic new fuel efficiency standards,” the report says.

The report, though, makes the case for additional steps, such as cutting emissions from power plants. It says total emissions in 2020 — based on measures in place as of September 2012 — will be 4.6 percent below 2005 levels.

The estimate, however, falls far short of Obama's pledge.

The report comes as the U.N.-created Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to release a draft Friday in Sweden of the latest assessment of the science on climate change and its impacts. Based on research by hundreds of the world's top climate scientists, the panel is expected to say with heightened certainty that humans are responsible for the planet's rising temperatures and that surface temperatures are not the only indicators of climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency released an updated proposal last week that for the first time would set limits on emissions from new coal and natural gas plants. It aims to finalize the rule and propose a new limit for existing plants in 2014. New coal-fired power plants would not be able to meet the standard without costly technology to capture and store carbon emissions.

The coal industry and some Republicans on Capitol Hill object to EPA's proposed standard as job-killing. It's “effectively a ban” on new coal plants, says Jeffrey Holmstead, a former senior EPA official under President George W. Bush.

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