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The Long-Term Strategy of the United States to Reduce CO2 emissions

In order to combat climate change, there needs to be a long-term, comprehensive strategy that takes advantage of available technological solutions in addition to behavioral changes from both citizens and organizations alike.
Reducing CO2 emissions

For years, the United States has been debating how to effectively reduce carbon emissions (CO2) in order to combat climate change. In recent decades, many initiatives have been proposed but none of them has had a significant impact on altering our national trajectory toward harmful greenhouse gas levels.

While short-term interventions are important for producing meaningful results and continued action is crucial for achieving meaningful outcomes, long-term strategies must be put in place if we truly wish to limit the damage from carbon pollution. In this post, we’ll discuss why having a clearly defined long-term strategy is essential for reducing CO2 emissions in the US and explore some potential solutions that could help move us closer toward that goal.

What are the current greenhouse gas reduction targets in the US and how can we achieve them?

Climate change is happening now and has tremendous consequences for countries and people around the world. Many of us underestimate the long-term impact of climate change on everyday life. While we as individuals have a responsibility to reduce our own carbon footprint, countries should lead the way. 

The United Nations names the US, China, and India as the greatest polluters and highlights that the three countries account for almost 50% of emissions worldwide. Both the US and China are at the top for historic as well as current greenhouse gas emissions. It is the responsibility of these enormous polluters to not only reduce their own emissions but to offset their carbon footprint by supporting developing countries to decrease future emissions. 

This article aims to particularly highlight CO2 emissions in the United States and its efforts towards reductions.

Figure 1 shows U.S. Greenhouse Gas emissions by different economic sectors from the years 1990-2020.

Figure 2 gives an overview of the historic and projected emissions in the United States 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Map
Figure 1: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sector, 1990-2020
Source: U.S EPA’s Inventory of U.S Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2020 
Map of Historic Emissions
Figure 2: United States historic emissions and projected emissions under the 2050 goal for net-zero 
Source: The White House

What does the US currently do to reduce its Carbon footprint

The newest US policy to decrease greenhouse gas emissions targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction of emissions by 2030. The country’s ultimate goal is to become a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 (EPA, 2022). In order to meet these goals, the United States has to be able to triple the pace of its greenhouse gas reductions over the past years (WEF, 2022). 

A study by the world economic forum shows that energy efficiency, cleaner electricity, and a fast transition towards electrification are key for near- and long-term CO2 reductions. 

The White House has introduced a series of new legislation in an effort to make steps towards its 2050 goal. 

Transportation 

According to statistics released by the US Congress, emissions of carbon dioxide in the transportation sector accounted for 38 percent of energy-related emissions in the United States in 2021. To reduce the country’s transportation emissions, President Biden aims for a 50% electric vehicle sales target by 2030. Under his administration, new emissions and fuel use standards for light-duty and heavy-duty motor vehicles have been introduced in 2021.

These changes in legislation target to avoid more than 3 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions on American roads. Not only by incentivizing people to drive electric or other environmentally friendly cars but also by introducing more renewable fuels to replace petroleum-based gasoline. Further, the Biden administration plans to introduce new legislation targeting other harmful air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks.

Another part of the plan for emission reductions is to invest in infrastructure supporting clean transportation such as public transit, biking, or pedestrian options. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has also pushed for new emission standards for air traffic. 

Electricity Generation

The Environmental protection agency states that in 2020 electricity production accounted for 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Around 60% of the electricity we use is sourced from burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Part of President Biden’s 2050 goal is to decarbonize electricity.

In recent years, the country has already made progress in the right direction, due to lower costs for solar, wind technologies and batteries, new federal and subnational policies, as well as a change in consumer demand. Currently, the United States aims for 100% clean electricity by 2035. A big part of this plan is to not only provide further incentives but also to invest in new technologies to increase the flexibility and reliability of the electricity system. 

Industry

The industrial sector emits a significant amount of carbon dioxide in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a large part of the electric power used in the industry still comes from burning fossil fuels. Other sources of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by specific chemical reactions in the production of raw materials.

However, in recent years solar and wind energy have become widely available and cheaper than fossil fuels in most places. Making a change toward cleaner production processes in industry and replacing energy sources from fossil fuels is a part of the 2050 agenda. Further, President Biden plans to invest in infrastructure and innovation that will lead the critical industries and works towards clean technologies.

While countries and its government play a significant role in making the transition toward reducing CO2 emissions, communities and individuals also have to do their part.

At Transformation we aim to help family offices, funds, and private companies capture opportunities in energy, water, and agriculture to achieve lasting profit while positively impacting the world.

April 3, 2023

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