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US Climate Targets: A Closer Look at Emissions, Progress, and Challenges

by Anna

The United States, as the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has committed to reducing its emissions by half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. However, analysts indicate that the nation is currently falling short of staying on track to meet this ambitious target. Here are some key questions and answers about America’s emissions and its climate plans:

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How much does the US emit?
In 2021, the US emitted 6.28 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, making it the second-largest emitter globally after China. However, when considering historical emissions since 1850, the United States emerges as the leading cumulative emitter. US emissions peaked in 2007 and have been decreasing since.

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Where do the emissions come from?
Transportation is the largest contributor to US emissions, accounting for 28% in 2021, followed by electricity generation (25%), industry (23%), the commercial and residential sectors (13%), and agriculture (10%). In 2022, approximately 60% of US electricity production came from gas- or coal-fired power plants, with renewables contributing 21.5%, and nuclear power making up 18%.

What are America’s climate targets?
In 2021, President Joe Biden pledged to reduce emissions by 50-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This commitment aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement and aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Specifically, Biden seeks carbon neutrality in electricity production by 2035.

Is the US on track?
Experts suggest that the US is not currently on track to meet its 2030 emissions targets. While the Biden administration has passed significant legislation, including infrastructure modernization and environmental investments, a recent UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report indicates that these efforts may not be sufficient. A Rhodium Group analysis suggests that the major legislative actions taken by Biden will result in a reduction of 32-42% by 2030, falling short of the 50% target.

What actions has the US taken?
The Biden administration has implemented various laws and regulations, including infrastructure plans, the “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) with a focus on energy transition, and regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce methane emissions and capture CO2 from power plants. However, additional ambitious measures are deemed necessary at both the federal and state levels to achieve the 2030 emission reduction goal.

In conclusion, while progress has been made, achieving the ambitious emission reduction targets set by the United States will require continued efforts and potentially more impactful measures to address the challenges posed by various sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

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