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US Is on Track to Fall Far Short of Emissions Reduction Goals, Report Finds

If Congress doesn’t act fast, the country will only reduce emissions by as low as 24 percent by 2030.

People cross a street emitting smoke in New York on November 15, 2017.

If Congress doesn’t act quickly to pass climate legislation, the U.S. will likely only meet a fraction of the goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade, a new report warns.

The Rhodium Group found that, without further action from Congress or state legislators, the U.S. is only on track to reduce emissions by 24 to 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. While this is marginally better than the reductions of merely 17 to 30 percent that the group found the country was on track for last year, it still falls “significantly short” of the U.S.’s Paris Agreement pledge and President Joe Biden’s goals, the report says.

The emission goal won’t even be met by 2035, the researchers found. The level of emissions reductions by 2035 under current legislation would still only be about 26 to 41 percent below 2005 levels, with greenhouse gas emissions “remain[ing] stubbornly high,” the group wrote.

As it stands, with only policies like last year’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vehicle emission standards, reductions will largely come from the power sector and the growth of electric vehicles and fuel efficiency developments. Industry actors will be the largest driver of emissions, the report found.

“[N]ow, more than ever, it’s important for policymakers to focus on maximizing the impacts of policy: the clock is ticking on both achieving the U.S.’s 2030 climate goals and on reducing emissions to avert the worst impacts of climate change,” the report says.

On the heels of last year’s unceremonious death of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which would have nearly single-handedly brought U.S. emissions completely in line with Paris Agreement goals, Congress is currently working on a new reconciliation bill that could contain up to $350 billion in funding for climate and energy provisions.

The major roadblock for this funding is conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who was responsible for killing the BBBA and is a major player in this year’s negotiations.

In fact, even before a draft outline of this bill is out, the White House is already considering breaking President Joe Biden’s pledges to stop all new drilling on public lands by approving new fossil fuel projects in order to appease Manchin, who has spent his entire political career enriching his bank account by partnering with the coal industry.

The researchers say the reason that the range of predicted emissions reductions is so large is because there is uncertainty over whether or not legislators will act to prevent the climate crisis from further worsening. The only certain conclusion that they draw, therefore, is that legislators have a mandate to act — quickly.

“The clock is ticking on Congress’s and the Biden administration’s efforts to enact meaningful policy changes to bend the emissions curve down further. States and the private sector may be able to make up some of the difference but, as yet, have not taken substantive steps to do so,” the report says.

“New elections on the horizon and increased judicial scrutiny similar to the Supreme Court’s recent West Virginia v. EPA decision underscore the need to act fast and responsibly if the US has any chance of meeting its 2030 climate target and helping to avert the worst effects of global climate change,” the group concludes.

While Democrats are scrambling to get consensus within the party on climate legislation, the right is united in their goal of ensuring that the fossil fuel industry maintains its grip over the country and perpetuating the climate crisis. Far right extremists on the Supreme Court ruled last month that the EPA doesn’t have broad jurisdiction over regulating fossil fuels, which deals a major setback to climate advocates and, indeed, the whole world.

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