Carbon Budget America 2030 has released a comprehensive report exploring the current and projected public and private investments required in the United States by 2030 to help achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goals. The report estimates the emissions reductions that we need to achieve a 25% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels. This allows the US to achieve its climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We must achieve these future emissions reductions by 2030. This is important to avoid significant increases in global temperature, which will probably reach well over 1.5°C¹.
According to the report, US greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2007 and declined throughout 2015. However, the majority of emissions reductions came from energy efficiency. The increased use of low-carbon alternatives such as renewables are also a way to reduce emissions².
Carbon Budget America: Climate Actions
By 2025, further emissions reductions will be needed to meet the Obama Administration’s stated goal of reducing the US’ contribution to the global emissions increase by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels³. The report considers three possible future scenarios: no additional action, steps to meet current Paris commitments and no further action. The report examines the costs and benefits of taking each of these actions.
If no significant action is taken to reduce emissions after 2030, US temperatures will most likely increase by 3°C to 5.4°C by 2090. Even if action is taken, it will most likely be insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement goal of preventing increases of 2°C.
Expanding on recent work by the New Climate Economy (NCO), climate action is also an economic opportunity for the US economy. By investing in a diverse portfolio of renewable energies and other low-carbon technologies, the US can grow its economy. It could create jobs and reduce emissions at a lower cost than we currently pay to pollute. A carbon budget is the maximum rate at which emissions reductions can take place to avoid exceeding the 2°C target.
Four ways to meet the target
In the US, the maximum rate at which emissions can be reduced by 2030 is 1,360 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. The report outlines four possible pathways to meet the Obama Administration’s Paris target:
- Clean Power Plan: The US will probably reduce emissions by 15% below 2005 levels by 2030⁴
- Current legislation in the US and a global carbon price: The US could reduce emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030
- New legislation in the US and a global carbon price: The US is projected to reduce emissions by 55% below 2005 levels by 2030
- Clean Power Plan and a global carbon price: The US will probably reduce emissions by 82% below 2005 levels by 2030⁵
US greenhouse gas emissions are likely to grow slowly in the decades to come. Expanding wind and solar generation, improvements in efficiency and natural gas expansion will help to meet future US energy demands. Natural gas, in particular, will probably remain dominant for electricity generation into the middle of this century. This will make decarbonizing the grid an important component of the long-term US energy strategy.
¹ The Paris Agreement, https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
² Renewables can reduce CO2 emissions by 70 % by 2050, http://www.climateaction.org/news/renewables_can_reduce_co2_emission_by_70_by_2050
³ FACT SHEET: U.S. Reports its 2025 Emissions Target to the UNFCCC, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/31/fact-sheet-us-reports-its-2025-emissions-target-unfccc
⁴ Trump Repeal of Climate Rules Means U.S. Paris Target Now Out of Reach, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/20032017/paris-climate-agreement-donald-trump-global-warming-clean-power-plan
⁵ Is There Hope for Carbon Pricing Legislation in the United States?, https://www.eesi.org/articles/view/is-there-hope-for-carbon-pricing-legislation-in-the-united-states