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EPA: US greenhouse gas emissions declined in 2015

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States declined by 2.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, federal officials reported on Tuesday.

In its annual draft greenhouse gas report, the EPA said total emissions of climate change-causing gases decreased in 2015 after back-to-back years of small growth. The report uses the most up-to-date data about greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA attributed the overall decline to lower carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, which itself came about because of less coal consumption in favor of natural gas, warmer winter weather that decreased heating fuel demand and lower electricity demand overall.

Carbon dioxide emissions, which make up 82.2 percent of overall U.S. greenhouse gases, decreased by 2.9 percent in 2015, the agency said.

Because fossil fuel consumption accounts for more than 93 percent of those emissions, carbon trends are driven primarily by changes in the energy market. Overall emissions decline when there is decreased demand for energy, as well as a reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels burned for energy.

Those factors have far-reaching implications, given potential changes in American environmental regulations. President Trump, for example, has said he will prioritize policies that support fossil fuel growth, and his EPA is unlikely to pursue the type of power sector carbon regulations pushed by the Obama administration.

Overall, the U.S. produced 6,586.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, and annual emissions declined for the first time since 2012. Emissions increased 2.2 percent in 2013 and 0.9 percent in 2014.

The EPA’s draft study previews a final version of its annual emissions report, which is due to the United Nations in April.