The United States is on track to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half, compared to 2005 levels, by 2035, according to an analysis looking at the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Just a year after this law, which has a strong focus on promoting green energy, went into effect, climate progress in the US is improving, but despite this, analysis shows that the law it won’t do enough on its own to affect the nation’s climate. target of a minimum reduction of 50% of emissions by 2030.
With climate-related tax credits and funding totaling nearly $400 billion, the IRA represents the most significant spending in this sector in US history and has already begun to influence the path of decarbonization of US, which was accelerating even before the law was passed.
“There have been a ton of announcements in clean energy manufacturing, battery manufacturing, EV (electric vehicle) manufacturing,” says Robbie Orvis of Energy Innovation, a US think tank. and grid-connected solar have continued to grow and people are buying record numbers of electric vehicles and heat pumps, he says.
But a year is not long enough to gauge the impacts of such a sweeping law, says John Bistline of the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in California. To assess its long-term effects on emissions, he convened 17 groups, including Energy Innovation, to compare nine different economic and energy models. “There’s a flurry of models published, and it’s hard to understand where the models agree, where they disagree, and why,” he says.
The groups found that the most recent projections from their models range from 43 to 48 percent emissions reductions compared to 2005 levels by 2035, a significant jump from the 25 to 31 percent reduction that the models say. What would happen without the law? All the models show that the decarbonization of the electricity sector is responsible for most of the emission reductions due to the law.
“There is general agreement that this is a big problem for the US,” says Ben King of the Rhodium Group, a research firm in New York that contributed to the modeling.
However, those reductions are not enough to meet the US goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which call for at least 50% emissions reductions by 2030. Even in the most optimistic projection, EE The US still needs to reduce its annual emissions by one more gigatonne. Missing the 2030 target would mean even steeper cuts will be needed to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.
“Life gets substantially more difficult every year that we don’t make leaps and bounds on decarbonization,” says King.
Bistline says that closing that gap will require a combination of actions by the private sector, state governments and federal agencies to expand clean energy, improve energy efficiency and electrify everything. It’s an “all hands situation,” she says.
Measures like the recent move by the US Environmental Protection Agency to impose strict limits on emissions from existing power plants and mandate the sale of more electric vehicles can help, King says, as can more stringent rules on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. With more action, it should still be possible for the US to meet its climate goals, King says. “But there are a lot of things that have to go right for us to get there.”