A new report from RFF points out that despite the absence of cap-and-trade legislation, the United States is on course to reach the same emissions reduction goal – 17 percent fewer emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 – that would have been mandated under the Waxman–Markey cap-and-trade proposal [H.R. 2454], if it had become law in 2010.

The report identified three factors contributing to the emissions reductions projections: Regulations under the Clean Air Act that were set to take effect without cap-and-trade legislation, particularly expected operating performance standards for new and existing stationary sources and vehicle efficiency standards; trends in fuel prices and energy efficiency; and subnational efforts, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and renewable portfolio standards in 29 states.

The model assumes that some EPA rules, such as the additional fuel economy standards proposed in 2011, would have been preempted by Waxman-Markey. That policy argument – to let the purchase of emissions credits substitute for other regulatory efforts – would have resulted in fewer emission reductions, according to RFF.

In light of this assessment should the US pursue cap-and-trade or other carbon emissions-related legislation?

Further reading:

Linking Climate Policy to Fiscal and Environmental Reform

Design and implementation of carbon cap and dividend policies