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How U.S. emissions could be cut in half by 2030

At the COP26 climate congress in 2021, the United States has set a very ambitious goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent until 2030. A recent study led by an international team of scientists and policy analysts has described the necessary actions the US needs to take to accomplish this goal. The experts suggest that, although there are multiple pathways to achieve this, strong and immediate commitments are absolutely necessary to keep the plan firmly on track.

“This study should give policy makers and other energy stakeholders some level of comfort, by showing that everybody in the field is pointing in the same direction. The case for clean energy is stronger than ever before and our study shows that the 2030 emission target can be achieved,” said study co-author Nikit Abhyankar, an expert in Electricity Markets and Policy at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “With the right policies and infrastructure, we can reduce our emissions, while saving American consumers billions of dollars and generating new employment.”

According to Dr. Abhyankar and his colleagues, the most urgent actions that should be taken will be to double the amount of renewable capacity built each year, and to transition predominantly to electric vehicles by the end of this decade. In order to reduce emissions by 50 percent, the electricity grid will need to run on 80 percent clean energy (up from today’s 40 percent). To accomplish this, a coordinated policy response between states and the federal government will be necessary. 

A clean-energy transition would significantly reduce air pollution, and prevent up to 200,000 premature deaths, while avoiding over $800 billion in health and environmental costs by mid-century. Many of this health benefits will occur in minority communities, which are currently disproportionately exposed to vehicle and industrial pollution.

“Our study provides the first detailed roadmap for how the United States can reach its 50 percent greenhouse gas emissions-reduction target by 2030,” said study lead author John Bistline, program manager in the Energy Systems and Climate Analysis Group at the Electric Power Research Institute.

“This will require tripling the pace of historic carbon reductions, an ambitious but achievable target if stakeholders collaborate across all sectors. By comparing results across six independent models, we provide greater confidence about the policies and technology deployment needed to achieve near-term climate goals, laying the groundwork for an affordable, reliable, and equitable net-zero future.”

The study is published in the journal Science.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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