By Mathew Carr
April 5-6, 2021 — LONDON: The U.S. could agree to cut its emissions by 60% in the 25 years through 2030, according to a well-placed renewables expert.
The country’s current plan under the 2015 Paris climate deal is for a 26%-28% cut by 2025 vs 2005 levels.
A 50% drop by 2030 would not be a “big jump in ambition, to be honest with you. I personally think we should exceed 60% by 2030,” said Tim Williamson, an Obama renewable energy official who’s now interested in developing pumped-hydropower storage.
“That’s just me. I don’t know if the rest of the country is ready to go with the centralised, industrialized policy that pushes us forward. With industrial policy we can get to 60%.”
The nation, the world’s biggest economy, has already probably achieved its planned 17% emissions cut by 2020 from 2005 levels, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic. New policy is urgently required to stem what’s set to be a big rebound in emissions.
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal, released last week, would create a whole-of-country shift that follows what the EU has done for industry-by-industry planning and even combines some elements of China’s centralized, long-term thinking, Williamson said.
For instance, the U.S. could install windpower at a faster pace than planned by Biden, he said, citing Wood Mackenzie. This table from August indicates Biden’s plans for 30 GW by 2030 is only a little ahead of plans already locked in.
The chart outlines the economic impact of offshore wind activities as a result of potential Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) lease auctions 2020-2022.
Solar installations are another huge opportunity that might allow for a more ambitious 2030 emissions target stateside:
Without reducing GHGs 60% by 2030, it’s unlikely the U.S. can hit net zero by 2050, Williamson said.
The Biden-Kamala Harris administration has said it will announce its new contribution to the 2015 Paris climate deal before an Earth Day summit on April 22-23, to which it has invited 40 world leaders.
The likely 50% reduction target (according to Williamson) approximates with that proposed by some environmental lobby groups.
Analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council showed that the U.S. can pledge to cut greenhouse gas pollution 53 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, which is both technologically feasible and affordable.
“Not only that, it will trigger an economic boom, helping to lift the country out of the financial turmoil wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” NDRC said last month.
A 60% reduction would potentially place the U.S. on a trajectory to keep temperatures from rising 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
It’s unclear whether the Biden administration can win political approval for its climate plans from the Senate.
China is gearing up to provide more detail this year on its emissions-limiting plans for the 2026-2030 period. This Climate Action Tracker chart shows the scale of the global challenge, with the 1.5C target becoming impossible to hit:
(Updates with additional comments and Wood Mackenzie, wind, solar charts)
Notes: NRDC press release: https://www.nrdc.org/media/2021/210330-0
Reuters story from last month: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-climatechange-target-idUSKBN2B31DW
U.S.’s Kerry heads to Asia early April 2021: http://carrzee.org/2021/03/31/india-calls-on-developed-nations-to-begin-removing-more-greenhouse-gas-than-they-emit-by-2030/
Wood Mackenzie press release from April 1: https://www.woodmac.com/news/opinion/president-biden-aims-for-higher-employment-and-lower-emissions/