US can still meet emissions target on time, with big savings

New study on the second anniversary of Kyoto global warming pact

provided by American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

he United States can achieve its greenhouse gas emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol while saving households and businesses $500 billion, according to a new study issued today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Meeting America's Kyoto Protocol Target: Policies and Impacts recommends ten major domestic policies that would stimulate widespread adoption of more efficient appliances, vehicles, buildings, power plants, and industrial facilities. The policies also accelerate the use of renewable energy sources and the shutdown of older, dirty coal-fired power plants.

"These ten initiatives could cut US carbon emissions in 2010 by 500 million tons per year -- 28 percent of the business-as-usual projection," said Howard Geller, Executive Director of ACEEE and coauthor of the study. "The global warming pollution cut could exceed 1 billion tons per year by 2020 as efficiency improvements continue to be made and the use of renewable energy sources accelerates."

The ten policies proposed and analyzed in Meeting America's Kyoto Protocol Target include:


  • New appliance efficiency standards and product labeling.
  • Stronger energy codes for the construction of efficient new buildings.
  • Stimulating the upgrade of existing buildings to save energy.
  • Public benefit trust fund as part of electric utility restructuring.
  • Renewable portfolio standard as part of electric utility restructuring.
  • Tougher fuel economy standards and market incentives for efficient new vehicles.
  • Greenhouse gas standards for motor fuels.
  • Reducing barriers to combined heat and power production in factories and buildings.
  • Voluntary agreements and incentives to reduce industrial energy use.
  • Tighter emissions standards on coal-fired power plants.

Faced with growing evidence that carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases are inducing climate change, the United States and other nations negotiated the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 1997. The Kyoto Protocol establishes legally binding emissions limits for 38 industrialized countries. The United States agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below its 1990 levels during 2008-2012.

Meeting America's Kyoto Protocol Target dispels the following myths.

Myth 1: Meeting our Kyoto Protocol target would necessarily harm consumers and businesses and lower economic growth.

Myth 2: It is too late to meet our Kyoto Protocol target.

Myth 3: There is little that can be done to cut emissions within the United States cost-effectively.

"The key to meeting our Kyoto target without pain is to increase energy efficiency on a wide scale. This would cut energy bills, yielding savings that more than pay for the cost of the efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies. We estimate that the ten policies would save $200 billion net through 2010 and over $500 billion net through 2020 for the nation as a whole," said Geller.

The policies recommended in Meeting America's Kyoto Protocol Target would provide other benefits besides lower energy bills and carbon emissions reductions. They would lower oil imports and improve America's trade balance, cut urban air pollution and improve public health, and enhance US industrial competitiveness.

"If we are intelligent about the policies and measures used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it can be a boon to the economy, to consumers, and to the environment. Adopting these policies makes sense even if climate change turns out to be a minor problem. We urge policy makers to adopt these policies no matter what they think about the details of the Kyoto Protocol," concluded Geller.

Meeting America's Kyoto Protocol Target: Policies and Impacts was prepared by ACEEE and the Tellus Institute, a nonprofit research and consulting firm based in Boston, Mass. Copies are available for $14 plus $5 shipping and handling. Contact the ACEEE publications office, phone: (202) 429-8873; email:

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting both economic prosperity and environmental protection. For information about ACEEE and its publications, visit their home page on the worldwide web: