NRDC Analysis: Cutting U.S. Climate Pollution in Half This Decade Will Avoid Widespread Hardship
WASHINGTON –To face the climate crisis head-on, the Biden administration must commit to cutting U.S. carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases in half by 2030, a bold move that would create millions of jobs, spur economic growth and make people healthier while fostering opportunities to protect vulnerable communities from harm, a new analysis by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) finds.
“This is a rare moment: We have an opportunity in the climate crisis to create great progress for our economy and peoples’ health,” said Starla Yeh, the analysis co-author and director of the policy analysis group in the Climate & Clean Energy Program at NRDC. “Establishing an ambitious goal to cut U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by at least 50 percent by 2030 will seize that opportunity.”
The NRDC analysis shows that the U.S. can pledge to cut greenhouse gas pollution 53 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, which is both technologically feasible and affordable. Not only that, it will trigger an economic boom, helping to lift the country out of the financial turmoil wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That commitment can be made soon, when the administration updates the U.S. climate pledge, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), to the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world community’s action plan to address climate change.
“Sending that unmistakable signal to the world,” Yeh said, “will trigger huge job growth in our country in clean energy, drive down the pollution endangering our health and climate, hand us a critical opportunity to make our society more equitable and reinstate America’s position as a global leader on climate.”
President Biden is expected to announce a new U.S. climate target before he convenes an international climate leaders’ summit on April 22. The Biden administration has an opportunity to inspire ambitious global climate action by other countries by committing to an NDC of at least 50 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2030, the analysis authors said.
Key highlights from the analysis show that a strong pledge to cut greenhouse gas pollution by the end of the decade—if coupled with strong federal policies—could:
- Put the U.S. on a path to add no new carbon pollution to the atmosphere by 2050—which scientists say is needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst damages from climate change.
- Create millions of jobs from sustained construction activity in clean infrastructure like wind and solar technologies and electric transmission lines.
- Ensure new job opportunities for communities impacted by the transition from fossil fuel to clean energy and prioritize cutting pollution in vulnerable communities who have suffered a disproportionate air pollution burden for decades. That could make the country fairer and more equitable.
- Deliver more than $150 billion in economic and health benefits in 2030 – well above that year’s investment of $100 billion.
- Help avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths because people would breathe cleaner air.
- Bolster the administration’s Build Back Better priorities and post-pandemic economic goals to pull the country out of recession.
Furthermore, the NRDC analysis finds these benefits are possible with existing technology and science, although they would need new and assertive federal policies—with administrative and legislative action—to accomplish. NRDC’s analysis identifies a range of pathways that assist in reaching the 2030 goal to cut emissions in half:
- Zero-carbon electricity: The share of zero-carbon electricity would nearly double, compared to today to make up about 80 percent by 2030. The power sector is the linchpin for slashing carbon pollution and the vehicle to cleaning up other sectors as we electrify our vehicles, buildings, and industries.
- Energy efficiency: By reducing energy demand, efficiency remains a highly cost-effective means to cut carbon. By 2030, aging appliances would be replaced with best available commercial and efficient technology and more than 14 million U.S. homes would be weatherized.
- Electrification: Advancements in electric vehicles and high-efficiency heat pumps, together with bold corporate commitments and state policies, are where the federal government can play a big role. With strong policies, by 2030, more than 50 percent of vehicles sold would be zero-emissions vehicles—and nearly 100 percent of building heating equipment sold would be electric.
- The analysis also assumes reductions in non-CO2 emissions and investments in preserving and enhancing land carbon sinks via reforestation, afforestation and improved agricultural soil management.
“The time to act is now,” said the analysis co-author Rachel Fakhry, policy analyst in NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy program. “An insufficient pace of transformation in this decade could make it harder for the U.S. to achieve its midcentury net-zero climate target. If the U.S. falls short, the costs will steeply rise and force reliance on pre-commercial and expensive technologies.
“It’s clear that the more progress we make this decade, the better off we will be. A strong but achievable new climate target will help us stay on track to a cleaner and safer future.”
A blog providing an overview of the analysis by co-author Rachel Fakhry is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/rachel-fakhry/us-must-commit-cutting-emissions-least-half
A blog by analysis co-author Starla Yeh explaining the policies needed to reach the 50 percent cut by 2030 target is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/starla-yeh/2030-us-ndc-policy-progress-all-corners-economy-0
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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.