28 April 2021
US Sets Target to Reduce Emissions by 50-52% Below 2005 Levels in 2030
Photo Credit: Lynn Wagner
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The US’ NDC presents mitigation goals, policies, and actions covering all GHG emissions, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and other potent short-lived climate pollutants.

The submission NDC announces consideration of carbon border adjustments in relation to carbon-intensive goods, and sets the goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.

In advance of the Leaders Summit on Climate, convened by US President Joe Biden from 22-23 April 2021, the US submitted its new nationally determined contribution (NDC). The NDC sets an economy-wide target for the US to reduce its net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030.

The submission presents mitigation goals, policies, and actions covering all GHG emissions, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and other potent short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).

Raising ambition across sectors

In the energy sector, responsible for 25% of 2019 GHG emissions in the US, the NDC sets the goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. The federal government will work with state, local, and tribal governments to support the rapid deployment of carbon pollution-free electricity-generating resources, transmission, and energy storage, and leverage the carbon pollution-free energy potential of power plants retrofitted with carbon capture and existing nuclear.

The NDC recognizes the transport sector as the largest source of GHG emissions in the US due to its high dependency on fossil fuels, with more than 90% of energy use coming from petroleum. The NDC lists a number of policies, some of which sub-national governments have already employed to reduce emissions in the sector, including: tailpipe emissions and efficiency standards; incentives for zero-emission personal vehicles; funding for charging infrastructure to support multi-unit dwellings, public charging, and long-distance travel. 

For application in aviation, the NDC notes research and deployment efforts to support advances in very low-carbon new-generation renewable fuels, noting also its support for decarbonizing international maritime and aviation energy use through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In the industry sector, the US will support research, commercialization, and deployment of very low- and zero-carbon industrial processes and products. Government policies listed in the NDC include incentivizing carbon capture as well as new sources of hydrogen to power industrial facilities, and using procurement power to support early markets for these very low- and zero-carbon industrial goods.

Increasing ambition with technology, potential carbon border adjustments

The NDC presents its target as increased ambition, “made possible in part through advances in technology and resulting market responses,” and emphasizes the US’ innovation will increase the diversity of available and accessible low-cost low-carbon technologies.

At the same time, the NDC notes the US will work to ensure that its firms and workers are not put at an unfair competitive disadvantage, and cooperate with allies and partners that are committed to fighting climate change. This includes, as appropriate, the “consideration of carbon border adjustments in relation to carbon-intensive goods.”

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies

The NDC signals the US’ “government-wide process” to develop strong and predictable policy frameworks. The NDC references Executive Order 14008, which outlines the details of this approach.

In line with President Biden’s call to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies during the Leaders Summit on Climate, the Executive Order mandates:

  • Pausing new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices;
  • Identifying any fossil fuel subsidies provided by agencies, and then taking steps to ensure that federal funding is not directly subsidizing fossil fuels; and
  • Seeking to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 and thereafter.

Voluntary cooperation under Paris Agreement Article 6

The NDC clarifies that in tracking progress, the US intends to make corresponding adjustments for any internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) that the US government authorizes for use towards NDCs, and for mitigation outcomes that the US authorizes for other international mitigation purposes.

The NDC also informs that “at this time, the US does not intend to use voluntary cooperation using cooperative approaches referred to in Article 6.2 or the mechanism referred to in Article 6.4 under the Paris Agreement.” 

As the SDG Knowledge Hub reported earlier, negotiations on the modalities of Article 6, or the rules that would operationalize market and non-market mechanisms for the mitigation of GHG emissions, are still ongoing, with a focus on ensuring environmental integrity. [The United States of America Nationally Determined Contribution: Reducing Greenhouse Gases in the United States: A 2030 Emissions Target] [Interim NDC Registry] [President Biden’s Executive Order 14008 of 27 January 2021]

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