US President Joe Biden announced a new target for the United States to achieve a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030. According to the most recent GHG inventory from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US GHG emissions in 2019 (after accounting for sequestration from the land sector) were 13% below 2005 levels.
In 2019, US greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MMT CO2 Eq.), or 5,769 MMT CO2 Eq. after accounting for sequestration from the land sector.
Source: EPA “Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks”
Total GHG emissions in 2019 were up 1.8% from 1990 levels, with CO2 emissions up 2.8% and CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion up 2.6% over the same period.
Biden has already announced goals to create a GHG-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050. Without going into any details, the Administration notes that “There are multiple paths to reach these goals, and the U.S. federal, state, local, and tribal governments have many tools available to work with civil society and the private sector to mobilize investment to meet these goals while supporting a strong economy.”
For the transportation sector, the Administration noted that achieving the target would involve further reducing tailpipe emissions and boosting the efficiency of cars and trucks; providing funding for charging infrastructure; and spurring research, development, demonstration, and deployment efforts that drive forward very low carbon new-generation renewable fuels for applications such aviation, and other cutting-edge transportation technologies across modes.
Investment in a wider array of transportation infrastructure, including transit, rail, and biking improvements, will also be on the agenda.
Will Scargill, Managing Energy Analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company, commented on achieving the targets:
Achieving major reductions in carbon emissions in this decade requires rapid gains and the best way to achieve that will be through electrification. With renewable power technologies well developed, delivering cleaner power to buildings and manufacturing, and driving the electrification of road transport present the clearest initial path for decarbonization.
Renewable power generation coupled with continued electrification of end use sectors can unlock major reductions in emissions, but the scale will still be contingent on the overall power mix. GlobalData’s current outlook sees renewables’ share of the global power mix increasing from around 30% in 2021 to around 40% in 2030, so there is still significant room for improvement. The outlook for the power mix varies significantly across the globe, with renewables contributing 71% in Western Europe by 2030 compared to 35% in the US, 38% in China and 27% in India. As countries look to accelerate this transition, the modernization of power grids and integration of energy storage will also be increasingly important.
The shift to electric vehicles can also play a major role in cutting overall emissions over the next decade, with road transport estimated to have contributed around 18% of global carbon emissions pre-COVID. However, despite a raft of recent announcements by vehicle manufactures and policymakers on phasing out internal combustion engines, GlobalData currently expects only around 20% of new light vehicles to be fully electric globally by 2030. Speeding up this shift will be vital to meeting climate targets.
Technologies such as hydrogen fuel and carbon capture are also likely to play a significant role meeting global climate goals, particularly when it comes to hard to abate sectors like heavy industry, aviation and shipping. However, the ramp-up period required to further develop and implement them means that they are unlikely to be able to make a major impact on emissions this decade.