The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
Last year, I spoke to a Slate reporter who asked why the Obama Administration had not invested more in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Last night, the administration took steps to reduce transportation emissions by making charging easier and more affordable and by leading the way through a unified, national effort.
The administration announced several initiatives to promote EV adoption. Notably, $4.5 billion in funding has been designated to support guaranteed loans for the installation of new EV charging stations. The administration also plans to develop a guide for federal funding, financial, and technical assistance for EVs and EV charging infrastructure, as well as invest in research and partnerships that will expand EVs’ consumer appeal.
Range anxiety, or a simple lack of available charging options, continues to impede the growth of the EV market. The administration announced $4.5 billion in guaranteed loans through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Program Office to install EV charging stations. Expanding federal loans to include EV charging stations may help remove a major impediment to investing public charging by reducing the cost of capital.
A 2015 C2ES report recommended government loans in the short term to help stimulate the growth of public charging infrastructure and create a sustainable charging network. The report found that charging service providers face difficulties earning a return on investments for public charging projects, but could develop profitable business models with government financial support.
The administration is proposing to develop federal standards to assist with developing networks of DC fast charging stations, which can charge an EV in 30 minutes or less. The U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation will produce a guide to federal funding programs, financing incentives, and technical assistance for EVs and charging stations. The intervention of the federal government may help create some more consistency between charging networks with varying standards and processes, and the guide may establish an authoritative and inclusive resource for all stakeholders to turn to for a better understanding of EVs.
The proposal leverages existing programs, such as the congressionally approved 2015 FAST Act designating travel corridors for alternative fueling stations, to help expand DC fast charging networks.
This figure illustrates the business challenge facing charging service providers. Over the expected life of the charging equipment, the direct revenue for the provision of charging services is less than the cost of owning and operating the charging station.
The White House’s announcement also includes new funding for research to cut EV charging time down to 10 minutes, which would appeal to consumers used to fueling gasoline-powered cars. Consumers may find charging easier with the inclusion of new companies in DOE’s workplace charging program and utility commitments to deploying new EV infrastructure.
There may be some criticism about why the federal government is investing this funding in EVs, and not other clean transportation technologies such as natural gas or hydrogen. EVs currently hit the sweet spot of offering greater carbon reduction potential than natural gas vehicles, with the capacity to get even cleaner as the electric grid decarbonizes, while attracting greater support from automakers and consumers than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Twenty-six EV models were sold in the United States last month, with automakers pledging many more models in the coming year.
Now that the transportation sector has become the largest U.S. greenhouse gas-producing sector, these initiatives will help bring clean transportation to consumers by making EV adoption easier and more enjoyable.
Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
June 29, 2016
On the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan:
By pledging to power their economies with more clean energy, the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States are showing the way toward a more sustainable future.
Generating half of North American electricity from non-emitting sources by 2025 is ambitious but it’s achievable.
By developing goals and strategies for 2050 and beyond, the three countries also will be charting a clearer course toward achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement, and setting a strong example for other countries.
Canada, Mexico and the United States have connected economies. Working together can make all three economies stronger and more sustainable, and reduce the costly risks of climate change.
To speak to a C2ES expert, contact Laura Rehrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the challenges of energy and climate change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
Back in 2005, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that, under current policies, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions would increase nearly 18 percent by 2015.
They did not.
In fact, emissions fell – by more than 12 percent. So we were off by 30 percent.
As Yogi Berra may have said: It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. We didn’t know then the impact a variety of market and policy factors would have on our energy mix. And we don’t know now all of the factors that could help us meet, or exceed, our Paris Agreement pledge – to reduce our net emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
U.S. emissions have fallen over the last 10 years due to factors that include:
- Growth in renewable energy
- Level electricity demand
- Improved vehicle efficiency
- A shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas.
An unanticipated abundance of cheap natural gas has transformed the U.S. electricity mix. Coal-fired generation has fallen from 50 to 33 percent of the mix, while less carbon-intensive, natural gas-fired generation has risen from 19 to 33 percent.
The last 10 years also included a major economic downturn, which in 2009 drove electricity sales below 2005 levels. Despite a return to positive economic growth in the following year that continues through today, electricity sales have remained flat. Declines in manufacturing; improvements in energy efficiency, including in buildings, lighting, and appliances; warmer winters; and increased use of on-site generation like rooftop solar panels are the likely drivers.
What will happen in the next 10 years?
Certainly, the electric power sector will continue to decarbonize. It is not unreasonable to assume that natural gas will play an even larger role, while coal will play a substantial albeit diminishing role in the electricity mix.
Here are some other factors that are hard to quantify now, but could affect how quickly we transition to a clean energy future:
More zero-emission electricity
Increased clean and renewable electricity production, spurred by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and congressional tax credit extensions for wind and solar, could reduce renewable power costs, which have already been dropping. In other words, economies of scale could lead to higher deployments and lower emissions than currently forecast.
Wind and solar generation have grown nearly twelve-fold since 2005, nearly eight times greater than what was expected back then. In the 2016 Annual Energy Outlook, wind and solar generation are projected to increase 2.5 times by 2025. Historical precedent would tend to suggest that this is a highly conservative estimate.
However, sustained low prices in wholesale power markets from low natural gas prices and a proliferation of renewable electricity sources could harm another zero-emission source: nuclear. In particular, we could see natural gas continue to replace zero-emission merchant nuclear plants, moving us in the wrong direction, unless remedies are implemented. Also, low wholesale prices would tend to discourage new renewable generation.
More zero-emission vehicles
Electric vehicles (EVs) make up less than 1 percent of new U.S. car sales. But as their prices drop and range expands, the adoption rate could accelerate over the next 10 years, spurring important reductions from what is now the largest emitting sector. In one sign of growing demand, more than 400,000 people have put down a deposit for a Tesla Model 3 EV that won’t even be on the market until 2018.
Advances in battery storage could drive the transformation of the transportation sector and would provide obvious benefits to the electric power sector as well.
Meanwhile, automakers are exploring alternative fuels: natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, and biofuels. And more than a dozen states and nations have formed a Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance to encourage ZEV infrastructure and adoption.
Action by cities, the magnitude of which is not easily captured by national macroeconomic models, could lead to greater than anticipated emission reductions. Starting with the groundbreaking Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2005, initiatives are evolving to connect cities with each other to exchange knowledge and achieve economies of scale for new technologies.
More cities are exploring ways to generate additional reductions by 2025. These include: more energy-efficient buildings; better tracking of electricity and water use, innovative financing for more efficient generation, appliances and equipment; and improved public transportation and promotion of electric vehicles.
Last, but not least, steps taken by companies beyond regulatory requirements could produce greater emission reductions than we can foresee. Companies are investing in clean energy projects, reducing emissions throughout the supply chain, establishing internal carbon pricing, and helping customers reduce their carbon footprint. More than 150 companies have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
C2ES and The U.S. Conference of Mayors are teaming up to encourage city and business leaders to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine how effective we can be when we coordinate climate action.
A 2015 UNEP report suggests that beyond each countries’ individual commitments to the Paris Agreement, actions by sub-national actors across the globe can result in net additional contributions of 0.75 to 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.
The United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse gases over the past decade, and has put in place policies ensuring continued reductions in the years ahead. With so many resources and tools at our disposal, it is clear that we can meet or exceed our climate goal. The only uncertainty is how we will do it.
Event: Innovation to Power the Nation
Technology, policy, and business experts discuss how innovative technology and policy can help us reach our climate goals at Innovation to Power the Nation (and World): Reinventing Our Climate Future at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 29. Watch the livestream.
Speakers include Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle K. Lee; C2ES President Bob Perciasepe; Dr. Kristina Johnson, CEO of Cube Hydro Partners; Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer at HP; and Dr. B. Jayant Baliga, inventor and director of the Power Semiconductor Research Center at North Carolina State University.
Cities often lead the way on greenhouse gas reductions, even though they rarely control the operation of the power plants that supply their energy. So how can city initiatives work together with the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants?
One option is the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included this early-action program as part of the Clean Power Plan and recently released program design details.
The program is voluntary. If a state chooses to participate, then certain renewable and energy efficiency projects can receive early action credits, including a federal match from EPA. These credits can be used for complying with the Clean Power Plan, so they provide additional financial incentives for clean energy projects.
While we can’t know the full value of the CEIP without knowing how many states participate and how power plants in those states comply with the Clean Power Plan, C2ES estimates the CEIP could drive up to $7.4 billion of private spending on clean energy projects across the country.
A key aspect of the CEIP is its support of project development in low-income communities. Solar and energy efficiency projects in these communities receive double credit, and a special reserve pool is created to make sure these projects can compete with large renewables for credits. This type of project development can support four key goals of city leaders:
1. Taking action to fight climate change;
2. Reducing energy bills for low-income residents;
3. Bringing jobs and investment to the community; and
4. Delivering co-benefits of renewable energy like cleaner air and water.
City leaders have the know-how to channel CEIP credits to their communities, but they will need to partner with their states and businesses to succeed.
Once states choose to participate, city leaders can help articulate the benefits of the CEIP. Cities can also provide data and support to project developers to streamline CEIP projects, especially low-income community projects that often face more hurdles. For example, they could help businesses locate communities that would host projects, work with utilities to identify potential projects, and build public-private partnerships to finance renewable energy.
How does it work?
Step 1: EPA creates a matching pool for each state. The amount of CEIP match available is limited, and EPA will divide the total pool among the states before the program gets started. If a state does not use its full share of the match, those credits will be retired. In other words, the CEIP is use it or lose it. Half of each state’s pool is reserved for low-income community projects and the other half for renewable projects like wind, solar, geothermal, or hydroelectricity.
Step 2: Interested states include the CEIP as part of their implementation approach. States must submit a plan to EPA that details how they will implement the Clean Power Plan. States that opt-in to the CEIP would have to declare that as part of their plan, and then they could receive the EPA match. If states opt out, then clean energy projects within their borders would not be eligible.
Step 3: New clean energy projects are developed in participating states. CEIP credits go only to new projects – renewable projects that start generating electricity on or after Jan. 1, 2020 or low-income energy-efficiency projects that start delivering energy savings on or after Sept. 6, 2016.
Step 4: New clean energy projects benefit the community. CEIP credits are awarded for electricity generated (renewables) or saved (energy efficiency) in 2020 and 2021. Starting in 2022, these projects are eligible for other financing opportunities under the Clean Power Plan.
Step 5: CEIP projects receive tradeable credits. States will verify how much clean energy a project is producing, then distribute the appropriate amount of CEIP credits (half from the state’s pool and half from EPA) to eligible projects. The project developers that receive the credits can sell them to power plants that need them to comply with the Clean Power Plan. CEIP projects don’t need the credits themselves because only fossil fuel-fired power plants are covered by the regulation. The value of CEIP credits will be determined by how power plants reduce their emissions.
The dates in the CEIP design details may change, depending upon the outcome of the legal challenge against the Clean Power Plan.
The CEIP will be open for public comment this summer. Once finalized, it will help promote new clean energy development in communities across the country. Its focus on low-income communities aligns it with other city priorities in addition to fighting climate change. The short timeframe of the program will make public-private collaboration a key to success in attracting CEIP projects.
C2ES, through our Alliance for a Sustainable Future with The U.S. Conference of Mayors, can be a valuable resource on climate policies like the CEIP. By communicating technical information in a meaningful way and facilitating the conversations between cities and businesses, we can advance clean and efficient energy.
Details of the Clean Energy Incentive Program
Under its final Clean Power Plan (CPP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to encourage early action in meeting CPP objectives. The CEIP is a voluntary program for states to incentivize renewable and energy efficiency projects by giving them assets that will be tradable in Clean Power Plan markets. On June 16, 2016, EPA proposed design details for the CEIP.
This fact sheet has been developed by C2ES in support of the Alliance for a Sustainable Future, in partnership with The United States Conference of Mayors. For more information about the Alliance, see: http://www.allianceforasustainablefuture.com
Policy Considerations for Emerging Carbon Programs
With climate action gaining momentum around the country, policymakers at the city, state, and federal level are all considering policy tools they can use to achieve their goals. Many market-based options exist that can deliver differing co-benefits. Discussions and collaboration with other jurisdictions and with affected businesses can also improve the policy outcome.
Innovation is an essential component to meet the challenges of climate change. Better ways to produce, store, conserve, and transmit energy will help the U.S. and other nations meet the ambitious goals set at the United Nations climate change conference held in Paris in December 2015.
Join the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Michelle K. Lee, and a panel of technology, energy, and climate experts for a discussion on how present and future innovation can change the course of our planet’s future. Questions to explore will include:
- What do we need do more, do differently, do faster, to change course and evolve our energy system to be clean, efficient, accessible, dependable and low-carbon?
- Where do we need breakthroughs in technology to really make a difference?
- What policies would help drive the innovation we need? What business model innovation is needed?
June 29, 2016
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Carnegie Institution for Science Auditorium
1530 P St. NW Washington , DC 20005
Hon. Michelle K. Lee
Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Dr. B. Jayant Baliga
Director, Power Semiconductor Research Center, North Carolina State University
National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee, 2016, Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor
Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer, HP
Dr. Kristina Johnson
Chief Executive Officer, Cube Hydro Partners National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee, 2015, Polarization Control Technology
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Moderator: Amy Harder
Energy Reporter, The Wall Street Journal
See full bios of speakers
Federal agencies are pursuing regulatory and voluntary steps to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas production system, the largest manmade source of this potent greenhouse gas.
On January 14, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40–45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
As part of achieving this goal, EPA adopted regulations on May 12, 2016, for new and modified sources of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector. This builds on the agency’s 2012 rule for new source performance standards (NSPS) and hazardous air pollutant regulations for oil and gas production and gas processing, transmission and storage facilities.
Separately, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has proposed its own regulations to be finalized in 2016 to reduce methane emissions from certain wells.
EPA also plans to work collaboratively with industry and states, including expanding its voluntary Natural Gas Star program, to reduce methane from existing oil and gas operations.
Steps to reduce methane from other sources, such as landfills and coal mines, are also part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
What is methane?
Methane, or CH4, is the main component of natural gas. When combusted as fuel, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide emissions as coal, and one-third less than oil (per unit of energy produced). However, natural gas that is released into the atmosphere without being combusted is a potent greenhouse gas.
Why is it important to reduce methane emissions?
Methane is the second biggest driver of climate change. It is much more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) at increasing the atmosphere’s heat-trapping ability, but it remains in the atmosphere a much shorter time (a little more than a decade compared with hundreds of years for CO2).
Averaged over a 100-year time frame, the warming potential of methane is about 21 times stronger than that of CO2. However, in a 20-year time frame, it is 72 times more potent. (The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change raises estimates of the global warming potential of methane to 34 times stronger than CO2 for the 100-year time frame, and 86 times stronger for the 20-year time frame. However, the earlier estimates are still used to maintain comparability among U.S. greenhouse gas inventory reports.)
Because methane is potent and short-lived, reducing methane emissions can have a more immediate benefit, and is especially important at a time of growing U.S. oil and natural gas production.
What are the primary sources of methane emissions in the United States?
Natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest emitters of methane in the U.S., according to EPA estimates. These emissions come from intentional and unintentional releases.
Agriculture, solid waste landfills, and coal mines are also major sources and are addressed by other EPA programs.
Figure 1: 2014 U.S. Methane Emissions, By Source
In 2014, U.S. methane emissions totaled 731 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013” (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2015), http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html.
How much methane is released in oil and natural gas production and how will EPA improve the accuracy of measurements?
Methane is released unintentionally and intentionally from oil and gas systems. According to EPA, natural gas and petroleum systems were responsible for nearly one-third of methane emissions in 2014. The rate of methane emissions from the sector has decreased in recent years, even as natural gas production has surged.
However, independent studies estimate a wide range of leak rates from natural gas production, from 0.71 to 7.9 percent. More comprehensive studies are needed for accurate results.
EPA has committed to examining options for applying remote sensing and other technologies to improve methane emissions data accuracy and transparency, and strengthening reporting requirements for methane in its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
Why is methane intentionally released?
In the production process, small amounts of methane can leak unintentionally. In addition, methane may be intentionally released or vented to the atmosphere for safety reasons at the wellhead or to reduce pressure from equipment or pipelines.
How does EPA address methane emissions from new oil and natural gas wells?
EPA adopted a rule in May 2016 under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act. It requires operators of new oil and gas wells to find and repair leaks, capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells, limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps, and limit emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers. EPA estimates that this rule could prevent the emission of 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, which is the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
EPA already regulates Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs, which are ozone-forming pollutants) from new oil and gas production sources, which has the side benefit of also reducing methane. The new rule is also expected to reduce other pollutants, including 210,000 tons of VOCs and 3,900 tons of air toxics in 2025.In addition, on January 22, 2016, the Department of the Interior proposed a Methane Waste and Reduction Rule to reduce methane emissions from all wells on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Indian lands.
The proposal from DOI will update rules and require oil and gas producers to reduce methane emissions from operations. It proposes the first-ever limits for flaring of natural gas as well as increased disclosure requirements. The DOI proposal would prohibit venting except in specified circumstances, require pre-drill planning for leak reduction, and increased use of leak-detection technology.
What entities will be covered by the regulations?
The EPA rule covers new and modified oil and gas production sources, and natural gas processing and transmission sources. EPA seeks to reduce emissions from five specific sources:
- natural gas well completion
- oil well completions
- gathering and boosting stations
- natural gas processing plants
- natural gas compressor stations
In developing new standards, EPA focused on in-use technologies, current industry practices, emerging innovations and streamlined and flexible regulatory approaches to ensure that emissions reductions can be achieved as oil and gas production and operations continue to grow.
The DOI proposal would affect all oil and gas wells on federally owned onshore lands, amounting to 100,000 wells responsible for 5 percent of US oil supply and 11 percent of gas supply.
How do EPA’s methane actions complement existing regulation?
The actions work with EPA’s new source performance standards (NSPS) and hazardous air pollutant regulations, finalized in 2012. They already apply to oil and gas production and gas processing, transmission, and storage facilities, and the 2016 rule applies them directly to methane as well.
While primarily aimed at reducing smog-forming and toxic air pollutants, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the NSPS rules also had the indirect effect of reducing methane emissions. They include the requirement to use "green completions" at natural gas wells to limit emissions from hydraulic fracturing, a rapidly growing means of drilling and production. In a “green completion,” special equipment separates hydrocarbons from the used hydraulic fracturing fluid, or flowback, that comes back up from the well as it is being prepared for production. This step allows for the collection (and sale or use) of methane that may be mixed with the flowback and would otherwise be released to the atmosphere. Because the same technologies in place to reduce VOC emissions would also be used to reduce methane, no additional steps would be necessary to reduce methane.
In its January 2015 announcement, EPA said it will develop new guidelines to assist states in reducing VOCs from existing oil and gas systems in areas that do not meet the ozone health standard and in states in the Ozone Transport Region. Like the earlier NSPS, these guidelines will also reduce methane emissions.
The final regulation issued in May 2016 will extend emission reductions further downstream from the 2012 rules and cover certain equipment used in the natural gas transmission sector in addition to equipment covered by regulation in 2012.
How does EPA propose to address methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells?
On March 10, 2016, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a joint statement including several actions to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. EPA announced it would immediately begin developing regulations for existing oil and gas wells and would, in April 2016, begin the formal process to require companies operating methane emissions sources to provide information to assist in development of standards to decrease those emissions.
On May 12, 2016, EPA issued a draft information collection request (ICR) that would require oil and gas companies to provide extensive information needed to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources. This will help EPA identify the most significant sources of emissions, the kinds of technologies that work best to reduce them, and how those technologies can be applied effectively. In addition, EPA plans to issue a voluntary request for information on innovative strategies to accurately and cost-effectively locate, measure and reduce methane emissions.
Canada intends to publish an initial phase of proposed regulations of methane from new and existing oil and gas wells by early 2017.
The countries committed to work collaboratively to improve methane data collection and emissions quantification, and transparency of emissions reporting in North America, and share knowledge of cost-effective methane reduction technologies and practices. They also agreed to jointly endorse the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative, and report annually on progress.
What other non-regulatory steps has the administration announced it will take?
The president requested in his fiscal year 2017 budget proposal $15 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and demonstrate more cost-effective technologies to detect and reduce losses from natural gas transmission and distribution systems, including leak repairs, and developing next-generation compressors. The president’s budget also proposes $10 million to launch a program at DOE to enhance the quantification of emissions from natural gas infrastructure for inclusion in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory in coordination with EPA. Congress must appropriate funding for these programs for them to be implemented. DOE will also be responsible for other recommendations to reduce emissions from the natural gas system.
After witnessing the historic signing of the Paris Agreement by 175 nations, we now need to turn our attention to fulfilling its promise.
As its nationally determined contribution to the agreement, the United States set a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In a new paper, C2ES outlines how expected and in-place policies could get us close to the goal line -- reducing emissions by as much as 22 percent. Getting the rest of the way can likely be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation.
First, let’s look at how we can get to a 22 percent reduction.
U.S. net emissions are already down more than 9 percent from 2005 levels due to market- and policy-related factors, including a shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, growth in renewable energy, level electricity demand, and improved vehicle efficiency.
The C2ES business-as-usual forecast, drawn from a number of analyses, projects an additional 5.6 percent reduction in net emissions through such policies as greenhouse gas standards for vehicles and the Clean Power Plan.
The rest of the anticipated emissions reductions is expected to come from new, higher estimates of future carbon sequestration and additional measures under development, including steps to strengthen fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Now, how will we address the remaining gap of at least 270 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent?
Additional federal policies would help. For example, greenhouse gas standards could be set for major industrial sectors under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, the same section that underlies the Clean Power Plan.
Technological advances that lower the cost of emissions reduction will also undoubtedly play an important role. Over the next five to 10 years, battery storage technologies are expected to improve by a factor of 10, which would support the integration of more renewable generation. A promising design for a natural gas power plant with nearly 100 percent carbon capture will enter the demonstration phase next year and could be commercialized soon after. And agricultural advances are leading to more sustainable crops able to sequester more carbon dioxide in their root systems.
Stronger efforts by cities will also be critical to filling the gap. A growing number of cities are working to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, which account for for 41 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. Greater adoption of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which help finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, could significantly reduce city energy demand. Similarly, city programs to build out infrastructure to increase the adoption rate of electric vehicles will, in-time, appreciably lower transportation-related emissions.
Companies, too, will play a key role. Twelve leading companies signed the C2ES statement calling on governments to quickly join the Paris climate pact and pledging to work with countries toward the domestic measures needed to achieve their national emissions-cutting contributions. More than 150 U.S. companies with a combined market capitalization in excess of $7 trillion joined the American Business Act on Climate Pledge – committing to reduce emissions, increase renewable power, or finance climate efforts. And the White House is calling on more companies to join the initiative.
The United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade. Cutting emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 is a challenging goal. But many options remain untapped, and concerted efforts across multiple fronts can get us across the goal line.
U.S. can reach Paris Agreement climate goal, but more will be needed
New analysis breaks down estimates of future emissions reductions
WASHINGTON – Existing and expected policies can take the United States most of the way toward its Paris Agreement goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the remaining reductions can likely be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).
As part of the landmark global climate agreement to be signed Friday by more than 150 nations, the United States set a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In a new paper, C2ES outlines how expected and in-place policies could reduce U.S. emissions by as much as 22 percent.
“To get all the way to the goal line, we’ll need concerted efforts across multiple fronts. But the goal is definitely within reach,’’ said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe.
U.S. net emissions are already down about 9 percent from 2005 levels due to market- and policy-related factors, including a shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, growth in renewable energy, level electricity demand, and improved vehicle efficiency.
The C2ES business-as-usual forecast, drawn from a number of analyses, projects an additional 5.6 percent reduction in net emissions through such policies as greenhouse gas standards for vehicles and the Clean Power Plan.
The rest of the anticipated 22 percent in emissions reductions is expected to come from new, higher estimates of future carbon sequestration and additional measures under development, including steps to strengthen fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Filling the remaining gap of at least 270 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent will require further steps, such as additional federal policies, technological advances that lower the cost of emissions reduction, and stronger efforts by cities and businesses.
“We’ve seen unprecedented support from cities and businesses for the Paris Agreement and climate action,” Perciasepe said. “Cities and businesses should press forward with their efforts, and we need to quantify their progress and learn from their examples to help the United States reach its climate goal.”
- Q&A: Answers to Key Questions about the Paris Agreement
- Summary of the Paris Agreement
- C2ES Business Statement supporting Paris Agreement
- Sampling of pledges of action by cities, states and companies
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our energy and climate challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org.