U.S. carbon emissions are the lowest they’ve been in years. But emissions must decline much, much faster in the coming decades if the United States is to play its essential part in sparing future generations the worst consequences of climate change.
Despite a climate policy freeze in Washington, a growing number of leading companies are thinking deeply about that challenge. They are sizing up the long-term risks posed by climate change, as well as the economic opportunities, and are beginning to envision their paths in a low-carbon transition.
In a new initiative we call Climate Innovation 2050, C2ES is bringing together companies in key sectors to look collectively at plausible pathways to decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
From a technical standpoint, past analyses have identified the core strategies:
- Electrifying transportation and other sectors to reduce reliance on fossil fuels;
- Decarbonizing the power sector;
- Dramatically increasing energy efficiency; and
- Capturing carbon and storing it in soils, forests and underground.
What we need now is a clear vision of how government and the private sector can mobilize the innovation and investment needed to achieve those transformations. That’s what Climate Innovation 2050 aims to provide.
With companies from power, transportation, tech, oil and gas, chemicals, cement, manufacturing, finance, and food and agriculture, the initiative provides a uniquely cross-sectoral perspective addressing an inherently cross-sectoral challenge. It affords companies the opportunity to develop a more wholistic view on how sectors can work together and to contribute to a decarbonization agenda.
As one of our initial steps, C2ES experts have prepared a set of briefs summarizing emissions trends and projections, and decarbonization challenges and opportunities, in six key sectors: power, transportation, buildings, industry, oil and gas, and agriculture/land use.
And we’ve brought in experts from the RAND Corporation and the University of Maryland’s Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) to help us lead the companies in exploring potential decarbonization pathways.
To better understand the potential roles of policy, technology innovation, corporate action and consumer behavior, we’re now working with the companies to develop a set of scenarios illustrating different pathways to reducing U.S. emissions 80 percent by 2050. Building on that analysis, we’ll later construct detailed roadmaps outlining the policies and private sector actions needed to achieve that goal.
Decarbonizing the U.S. economy is an ambitious aim, one whose urgency becomes ever clearer as our communities and economy bear the rising costs of climate change. It is heartening that so many of America’s leading companies are looking past the politics of the moment and are thinking seriously about a low-carbon future. We look forward to sharing more about Climate Innovation 2050 in the months ahead.