A new report from Environmental Defense Fund shows that the Biden administration can put forward an ambitious and credible Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement that cuts total net greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. This new NDC, which is consistent with the latest science and commitments from other advanced economies, can be achieved with all-in action, including from the Biden administration and Congress.
The report presents a range of analyses from different sources, including the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, America’s Pledge, and two EDF analyses, one of which is based on modeling by Rhodium Group. All demonstrate how the U.S. can reach at least a 50% target through a strong whole-of-government approach, including advancing a suite of robust climate and clean air protections under existing law; making significant investments in the clean power and transportation sectors through economic recovery legislation; federal investment in innovation and deployment of promising emerging technologies; enacting new legislation that limits pollution from the power sector, such as a clean electricity standard; and expanded state, local and businesses action. Designed well, these policies can not only help us meet our climate goals, they can make critically needed progress to promote equity and improve health outcomes for frontline and pollution overburdened communities.
“Bold U.S. climate leadership is critical to getting the world on the path to climate safety,” said Nathaniel Keohane, Senior Vice President for Climate at EDF. “The U.S. federal government has been on the sidelines for four years, and now the Biden administration must put America’s best foot forward with an ambitious and credible target that cuts emissions in half by 2030. This level of ambition is vital for restoring global leadership and inspiring global action at the scale we need to prevent the most devastating consequences of the climate crisis. Achieving this commitment is possible through swift all-in action, and is essential for rebuilding a stronger and more equitable, clean economy that keeps America competitive.”
An ambitious new target, grounded in the latest climate science and in line with the commitments of other advanced economies, will allow the United States to reclaim its role as a global climate leader. And to be credible, the new U.S. NDC must be achievable through concrete policy action at home.
In addition to the crucial need for a whole-of-government approach, the report identifies three key insights:
- Strong early action is needed for both short-lived and long-lived climate pollutants: Swiftly curbing powerful short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, can significantly slow down the rate of warming in the near-term. The administration should—as a component of the new NDC—put forward an explicit commitment to reduce methane emissions economy-wide by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. At the same time, early action to cut long-lived climate pollutants, such as CO2, is needed for stabilizing the climate in the long term.
- Cleaning up the power sector is key: The bulk of emissions reductions by 2030 come from the power sector, underscoring how early action to meet Biden’s clean electricity goal for 2035 is critical. Cleaning up the power sector as quickly as possible is important for enabling swift and broad electrification of other sectors like transportation.
- Not all pathways are created equal: While it is possible to get to at least 50% with sector-specific action alone, an enforceable declining limit and a price on emissions economy-wide would get the country there more quickly and affordably—supercharging action to cut pollution across major emitting sectors and providing a critical backstop to ensure we meet our goals.
“The Biden administration can harness many promising policy tools right away to move us toward a target of at least 50%, while building a thriving, more equitable clean economy,” said Susanne Brooks, Senior Director for U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis at EDF. “The administration can jumpstart progress in three key sectors—power, transportation, and methane emissions from the oil and gas sector—by putting in place critical clean air and climate protections under existing law and by working with Congress to enact transformative investments in recovery legislation. Crucially, these immediate steps can create millions of jobs and improve air quality for all Americans—which is especially critical for low-income communities and communities of color that have borne and continue to bear a disproportionate share of harmful pollution. Just as important as meeting our climate goals is how we reach those goals: policies can and should be designed to expand access to economic opportunity, reduce exposure to harmful air pollution, and empower American workers in every community.”
Each of the analyses in the report relies on a different set of methodologies and policy pathways, providing greater confidence that the goal of at least 50% reductions below 2005 levels by 2030 is achievable. And there is strong evidence that even greater reductions than those outlined below are possible:
- EDF-National Energy Modeling System (relying on Rhodium Group modeling): A suite of sector-specific policies through federal executive action and clean energy incentives in legislation, as well as an economy-wide limit and price on carbon. Reaches 51% projected 2030 emissions reductions.
- The Center for Global Sustainability Modeling (GCAM): A suite of sector-specific policies that includes federal executive action and stimulus incentives. Reaches 51% projected 2030 emissions reductions.
- America’s Pledge: Expanded bottom-up action by states, cities, and businesses together with sector-specific federal executive and Congressional action. Reaches 49% projected 2030 emissions reductions.
- EDF Sectoral Analysis: A suite of sector-specific policies, reflective of federal executive action, new legislative and additional incentives. Reaches 51% projected 2030 emissions reductions.
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