Full Title: Pathways to Paris: A Policy Assessment of the 2030 US Climate Target
Author(s): John Larsen, Ben King, Emily Wimberger, Hannah Pitt, Hannah Kolus, Alfredo Rivera, Naveen Dasari, Claire Jahns, Kate Larsen, Whitney Herndon
Publisher(s): Rhodium Group
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
Full Text: Download Resource
Over the course of this year, the impacts of climate change have become more immediate and tangible. A cascade of natural disasters—floods, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and extreme heat —have touched nearly every corner of the US. Meanwhile, it’s clearer than ever that the planet is on track for even more intense impacts in the decades ahead if action isn’t taken soon to avoid the worst climate damages.
President Biden campaigned on a platform that prioritized action on climate change. Now in office, the Biden administration has taken a whole-of-government approach to the issue, placing staff in key agencies to coordinate federal efforts to cut emissions. As part of this effort, President Biden submitted a nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, pledging the US will cut net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the range of 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Meanwhile, congressional leaders are shepherding a major infrastructure package and a multi-trillion dollar spending bill towards the finish line. The two bills combined have the potential to be the largest action ever taken to abate climate change in US history. In a few weeks, world leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to enhance global action and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As other countries step to the plate with bold ambition, they will need to be able to trust that the US can deliver on its 2030 promise of a 50-52% reduction.
This report aims to provide an independent, objective, and policy-focused assessment of the US 2030 target. We combine our knowledge of the US economy, energy systems, and policy design with state-of-the-art modeling tools to comprehensively answer two questions: Can the US cut net GHG emissions by 50-52% by 2030 and if so, what does a policy pathway to the target look like?
We consider actions by all key actors in the US federal system, including legislation under construction in Congress, regulations and other actions that can be taken by the Biden administration and key departments, as well as actions by climate-leading states and corporations. The suite of policies we consider is not intended to be exhaustive. Instead, it represents a series of actions that can be reasonably expected to occur over the next nine years if leaders in all levels of government work in earnest to address climate change. Based on this analysis, here is a summary of our key findings.