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The U.S. Plans To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 50 Percent

Joris Beugels

In a promising new Earth Day announcement, the federal administration has set an ambitious goal to cut emissions to at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This target more than doubles the United States’ previous commitment under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Right now, the country is well on its way with a powerful 21 percent decline in greenhouse gases since 2005. Though much of that decrease comes on the heels of utilities shutting down coal plants and shifting to natural gas, wind and solar, it has set a powerful example of how investments in clean energy make a measurable difference. Now, the federal government and many of the country’s largest private corporations are making changes to combat climate change and transition to a cleaner America. Though it may take sweeping changes, most experts agree the shift is possible.

Many corporate leaders are making substantial investments in clean batteries, low-emission construction, improved packaging, product design, less food waste, and new green energy – as well as working to improve the nation’s forests. Retail giant Wal-Mart is one of nearly 500 companies working on science-based targets to limit global warming through zero emissions. Its Project Gigaton works with its thousands of suppliers to prevent one gigaton of emissions by 2030.

Photo Courtesy Paul Summers

Despite the efforts of Fortune 500 companies, the greenhouse gas goal is somewhat complicated by the fact that an estimated one-third of the emissions reductions are a result of the ongoing pandemic, which has Americans driving less and businesses operating below pre-2020 norms. However, various analyses (including one by the World Resources Institute) indicate that cutting emissions in half by 2030 is possible. In fact, much evidence points to the positive conclusion that smart climate action will help move the country forward out of the pandemic by creating jobs, especially in rural areas. For the new administration, going green and boosting the economy go hand in hand.

“If we act to save the planet,” President Joe Biden said in a speech to Congress, “we can create millions of jobs, economic growth and opportunity and raise the standard of living for most everyone around the world.” 

This new roadmap to a 50 percent greenhouse gas reduction is expected to hit a few bumps along the way. As businesses rebound and American travel returns to pre-pandemic norms, some decline may be lost. A renewed focus on investment in wind, solar and hydropower will be key to meeting the 2030 goal. A new study shows that a major shift to clean power and electric vehicles is vital. Any new natural gas plants would need to be built with carbon-capture technology, and the remaining 200-odd coal plants in the country would need to be shuttered. That, combined with electric–rather than natural gas–heat in new buildings, and a significant commitment from oil and gas producers to cut down methane production could propel the country to its target. Investments in tree plantings and sustainable farming practices are also a must.The federal government plans to support businesses in their quest to go green, with talks to expand federal tax credits for clean energy ongoing–including the possibility of setting a clean electricity standard. It’s clear that as businesses and the government team up to reach the new greenhouse gas emissions goal, the environment and economy will both be healthier and more sustainable for generations to come.

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