Economywide GHG Emissions Reductions

EM – August 2022: This issue of EM presents perspectives on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction opportunities and challenges from different segments of the U.S. economy.
by Justin Walters

In 2021, President Joe Biden recommitted the United States to the Paris Agreement, an international accord under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of keeping global temperature increase to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C. As required by the Paris Agreement, the United States submitted an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), committing to reduce economywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 50–52% below 2005 levels by 2030, which is expected to put the United States on a path to net-zero economywide emissions by 2050.
In 2020, GHG emissions for the electricity generation sector of the economy were down 40% from 2005 levels, but economywide emissions were only down 20%. While the electric sector is expected to play a key role in achieving the ambitious goals of the U.S. NDC, reductions are also needed across all other sectors of the economy, including transportation, buildings, agriculture, and industry.
In this issue of EM, we present perspectives on GHG emissions reduction opportunities across the U.S. economy. In the first article, Timothy Lipman, Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkely, shares a look at the opportunities and challenges ahead for decarbonizing the transportation sector. Improvements in the cost and performance of battery technology have increased the market appeal of electric light-duty vehicles. However, policy support and technology development are needed to accelerate turnover of the vehicle fleet and related infrastructure and to tackle emissions from hard-to-decarbonize segments of the transportation sector.
Next, Chris Gray, Chief Technology Officer at Renu Communities, describes the opportunities to reduce GHG emissions associated with buildings. The article presents a case study of an average office building, demonstrating how combinations of efficiency retrofits, electrification, and on-site renewable energy can significantly reduce the intrinsic GHG emissions profile of the building and its occupants.
The third article, by Richard Meyer, Vice President of Energy Markets, Analysis, and Standards at the American Gas Association, discusses the opportunities for reducing GHG emissions from the natural gas industry. The author explores four pathways by which gas utilities could achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century that include combinations of energy efficiency, low carbon gas supply, carbon capture, and other emission reduction options.
In our final article, Alex Gilbert, Director of Space and Planetary Regulation at Zeno Power, highlights the role that nuclear power can play in meeting national net-zero GHG emissions targets. In his article, the author explains that maintaining the existing fleet of nuclear plants is critical for achieving near-term carbon reduction goals, while advanced reactor technologies could be an integral part of the future power grid and for decarbonizing other sectors of the economy.

Continue reading the full August 2022 issue of EM.


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