Over the last year, US greenhouse emissions increased by 6.2 percent compared to 2020 levels, according to a new report from the Rhodium Group. The jump puts the country further behind meeting the reduction targets put forward by the Paris climate agreement. Under the deal, the US has pledged to reduce its greenhouse emissions between 50 percent and 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. As of last year, they were 17.4 percent below that benchmark. That’s a step back from the 22.2 percent reduction the country had achieved the year prior.
Behind the increase in overall emissions were corresponding jumps in pollution generated by the country’s transportation and power sectors. Compared to 2021, those sectors generated an additional 10 percent and 6.6 percent of greenhouse emissions. Driving those increases was a 17 percent increase in reliance on coal-generated power and more people driving after a pandemic-related downturn.
The report underscores how important is it is for the US to clean up its power grid and transportation sector. Another recent study found that wind and solar could meet 85 percent of the country’s current electricity needs. So much of whether the US will meet its Paris Agreement commitments will depend on if the country can mobilize investment as part of policies like President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. The fate of the bill is uncertain, but what is clear is that the technology is there to enable a clean transition. Until recently, natural gas had never been more affordable, and yet it was still more expensive than renewable sources of energy.