By 2030, U.S. will slash its carbon pollution 50 to 52 % compared with 2005

Since 1751 the world has emitted over 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO2. To reach our climate goal of limiting average temperature rise to 2°C, the world needs to urgently reduce emissions. One common argument is that those countries which have added most to the CO2 in our atmosphere – contributing most to the problem today – should take on the greatest responsibility in tackling it.

Many climate scientists say it’s crucial that the United States, which has put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over time than any other country, cut its climate-warming carbon pollution at least in half this decade. That’s necessary, they say, to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), the widely accepted threshold for preventing catastrophic damage from climate effects.

The U.S. is currently the second biggest carbon emitter annually after China, with emissions of 6.6 billion metric tons in 2019. Its two largest sources are the transportation and power sectors, which respectively accounted for 29 and 25 percent of the 2019 total. Heavy industry, including steel, cement, and plastic production, represented 23 percent, while smaller shares were associated with agriculture (10 percent), and commercial and residential buildings (6 and 7 percent).

That goal, which represents America’s new “Nationally Determined Contribution” under the Paris Agreement, was announced during a two-day virtual summit Biden is hosting with leaders of the world’s largest economies, starting on Earth Day, to galvanize greater climate ambitions.

The announcement comes the same week that the European Union agreed to reduce its carbon emissions 55% by 2030 compared with the 1990 levels, and the U.K. announced historic emissions cuts of 78% by 2035, also compared with 1990.

To halve emissions by 2030, much of the heavy lifting will need to be done by the power sector, which the Biden administration has already pledged to decarbonize by 2035. That’s because zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind and solar power, are already available and being deployed at a large scale.

Roughly 40 percent of U.S. electricity came from renewables and nuclear power in 2020. Leah Stokes, an energy policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says that doubling the share of clean electricity on the grid to 80 percent by 2030 will get the U.S. halfway toward its overall goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent.

Getting an aggressive climate agenda through a divided Congress won’t be easy, but there are no excuses for inaction.

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