November 16, 2016

U.S. Releases Plan to Deeply Reduce Global Warming Emissions by Mid-Century

Statement by Rachel Cleetus, Lead Economist and Climate Policy Manager at UCS

MARRAKECH (November 16, 2016)—During the annual United Nations climate change summit, this year in Marrakech, the U.S. released its strategy to rapidly reduce global warming emissions by mid-century, four years earlier than was asked of countries at negotiations last year in Paris. Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“The U.S. is showing important leadership by putting its mid-century, deep decarbonization strategy on the table now. Although this is a long-term blue print for our low emissions future, policies and actions taken today will help determine whether or not we will be able to achieve significant carbon reductions by mid-century and at what cost. For example, an overreliance on natural gas could leave us at risk of constructing expensive infrastructure that will quickly become obsolete.

“The plan offered is comprehensive in scope, taking into account opportunities to cut emissions across different sectors of the economy, including the electricity, transportation, industry, and buildings sectors. It also highlights the need to invest in low-carbon technology development, and safeguard and enhance our natural resources—such as forests, soils, and grasslands—that help remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it.

“While the 2050 plan is a good start, we will need to aim for deeper emission reductions to reach net zero emissions by mid-century. Whether or not President-elect Trump embraces this vision, it provides a solid template for action by future administrations, as well as states, cities and other nations also considering their long-term climate and energy plans.

“There are multiple technologically and economically feasible pathways the U.S. could follow to obtain deep emission reductions by mid-century. They will all require robust policies and significant investments in transforming our energy system, with renewable energy and energy efficiency being among the most promising solutions. The different technology pathways do present choices, tradeoffs and uncertainties that must be considered by a broad set of stakeholders as we implement plans to meet our net zero goal.

“The good news is that the transition to low-carbon energy sources will also bring significant economic and public health benefits, while cutting heat-trapping emissions and helping to limit the worst effects of climate change.

“To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, including limiting global average temperatures from rising past 2 degrees Celsius, other nations will need to join in offering their deep decarbonization plans. Canada and Mexico will also share theirs later today, while Germany released their ‘Climate Protection Plan 2050’ last week. With these countries blazing a low-carbon trail, others may also be inspired to follow suit soon.”

Click here to check out the latest blog by Cleetus, which includes a new analysis on the pathways the U.S. power sector could take to deeply reduce global warming emissions by mid-century. Additional UCS blog posts on the deep decarbonization plan for other sectors can be found here.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.