The U.S. Can Hit Its 2030 Climate Goals, but a Lot Has to Go Right

CLIMATEWIRE | A pair of new laws coupled with new climate regulations gives the United States a chance of reaching its 2030 emissions targets under the Paris climate accord. But a lot could go wrong between now and 2030.

Those are the conclusions of a report released Thursday by the Rhodium Group exploring America’s pathways to achieving its target under the Paris Agreement.

The report finds the United States is in a significantly better position to realize its climate ambitions following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year and the bipartisan infrastructure deal in 2021. But Rhodium warns of significant barriers that could slow America’s progress or derail it altogether .

New pollution standards, the majority of which have not been finalized by the Biden administration, need to be enacted in order to hit the target. Permitting fights and transmission bottlenecks could derail clean energy projects. Supply chain constraints could drive up the price of renewables, electric vehicles and technologies needed to green factories, slowing their deployment. And victory for a candidate in the 2024 presidential race who does not view climate as a priority could see implementation of the country’s new climate incentives stall.

“It is not as simple as Congress passing a bill at this point,” said Ben King, a Rhodium analyst who helped write the report. “It is work that happens across the federal government, with multiple rulemakings at multiple agencies. It is work that happens across a wide range of states that adopt aggressive climate friendly policies.”

The long to-do list is the reason for a wide range in Rhodium’s emissions outcomes.

In the best-case scenario for climate, US emissions would drop 51 percent of 2005 levels by the end of the decade. That would satisfy the 50-52 percent cut to emissions called for under the Paris Agreement. Hitting that target, however, would require effective implementation of the new laws, a suite of regulations designed to curb pollution from cars, power plants and factories and lower clean energy costs.

Yet emissions reductions could fall by as little as 32 percent if legislative implementation sputters and new pollution rules are squashed in court or left on agencies’ drawing board tables. In that instance, low fossil fuel prices also would drive up energy consumption and emissions alike.

A host of federal rulemakings will be particularly important in determining whether the United States meets its climate goals, King said. New EPA regulations on everything from mercury and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants to vehicle emissions standards for vehicles and methane limits for the oil and gas industry could drive down greenhouse gas levels by 6 percent, Rhodium found.

The Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure deal provide economic incentives to green the economy, but there are no requirements that companies clean up under those laws. That is why new federal pollution standards are so important, King said.

“Ambitious federal action in those spaces is a necessary condition in getting to the Paris climate target,” he said. “There is a lot that could go wrong that could keep us on the lower end of that range. But there is a lot that could go right.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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