Released today in Science, a little over a year since the United States set the ambitious goal of 50-52% emissions reductions by 2005 levels 2030, the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) at the University of Maryland (UMD) joined five other leading modeling teams to reaffirm the feasibility of this target and identify commonalities in pathways to achieve it. This synthesis study involved collaboration from leading U.S. modeling teams, including the Center for Global Sustainability-UMD/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Natural Resources Defense Council, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Environmental Defense Fund.
“Even just a few years ago, it was unthinkable to imagine such a rapid reduction in emissions, but recent technological innovations in renewable energy technology and electric vehicles have substantially reduced the cost of decarbonization,” says study co-author Haewon McJeon, a fellow at the Center for Global Sustainability. “Now the issue is less about how costly it would be to decarbonize, but how quickly enabling policies can be enacted to facilitate the transition toward a low-carbon economy.”
The study lays a roadmap to achieving significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions through comprehensive policy and actions. Core to the roadmap includes swift decarbonization in the power and transportation sectors, accounting for roughly 70-90% of emissions reductions needed across the models. Yet actions from all sectors are required, including efficiency improvements and electrification of industry and buildings sectors, enhancing the land sink, and reducing non-CO2 emissions.
“We can achieve our climate target in the United States, but not without a renewed political will at all levels of government,” says Alicia Zhao, a co-author of the paper and lead author for the new policy brief, Policy Opportunities for 50%. “All of our models agree that additional federal policies and incentives, such as electric vehicle tax credits and a clean electricity standard, are needed to reach the U.S. target. And to ensure long-term implementation, the Federal government must put equity, access, and affordability at the forefront of policymaking.”
This roadmap comes at a critical time. Existing U.S. policies will only reduce emissions by 6-28% from 2005 levels by 2030, and at the current rate of technology innovation and market trends, the U.S. will not achieve the target.
“A large number of CGS analyses over recent years of opportunities for U.S. action have consistently shown that the current U.S. NDC is a good target – it is ambitious, it is achievable, and it is aligned with global pathways to keeping 1.5 degrees C within reach,” asked Prof Nate Hultman, Director of the Center for the Global Sustainability. “Today’s paper reaffirms, alongside five other leading research teams, that this target is technologically achievable, economically reasonable, and politically within reach through a set of feasible policies. If every actor steps up to do their part, anchored in robust Federal policies and incentives, we can achieve the rapid emissions reductions necessary for a global 1.5℃-compatible future.”