The answer, once again, is no!
On the 13th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 30th annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (GHG Inventory) on February 24, 2023.
Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (GHG Inventory)
“Net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were 5,586 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2021, a 6% increase in emissions from 2020. The increase is largely due to a rebound in economic activity following the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, emissions have declined overall since 2005 (17%), which reflects the combined impacts of several factors, including energy market trends, technological changes including energy efficiency improvements, and the carbon intensity of energy fuel choices.”
The critical emissions report is a comprehensive document that presents a national-level overview of annual greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2021.
The report is an important tool for understanding the sources and trends of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and it is used by policymakers, businesses, and individuals to develop strategies to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change.
Or, at the very least, it shows how bad the environment is and how badly we have collectively missed the targets necessary to slow climate change.
For a change, we have some good news.
The 2023 GHG Inventory is an important tool for tracking progress towards the goals of the U.S. Climate Action Plan (NOT The Paris Agreement but the plan to meet the Paris accord). The domestic plan calls for the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2023 GHG Inventory shows that the United States is on track to meet this goal.
This year’s Inventory shows that total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions declined by 14.9% from 2005 to 2021. This decline was driven by several factors, including the retirement of older, less efficient power plants, the increased use of renewable energy sources, and improved vehicle fuel efficiency.
However, emissions from the transportation sector, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, continued to increase in 2021.
How about the Paris Agreement? Surprise, surprise!
Once again, the 2023 GHG Inventory also found that the United States is not on track to meet its emissions reduction goals under the Paris Agreement.
Virtually no country has met the Paris Agreement which is a 2015 agreement establishing a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, all compared to the pre-industrial levels.
Under the agreement, the United States pledged a reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below the 2005 level in just two more years. The 2023 report showed the U.S. will miss the goal by 10%.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is the energy sector, which accounted for 29% of emissions in 2021. The transportation sector was the second-largest source of emissions, at 29%.
The industrial sector was the third-largest source of emissions, at 25%. Agriculture was the fourth-largest source of emissions, at 10%. Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) was the fifth-largest source of emissions, at 12%.
That sinking feeling
There is some good news in the GHG Inventory.
First, although it will not meet the 2025 goal of reducing emissions, the U.S. is lowering emissions by 17%.
But importantly, the summary of studies shows that the United States has a net sink for greenhouse gasses.
In simple terms, the country as a whole is not just reducing greenhouse emissions, it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits. This sink is primarily due to carbon dioxide removal by the country’s still vast forests and other land-based ecosystems.
The 2023 GHG Inventory highlights the need for the United States to take additional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Biden administration has proposed a number of policies to achieve the country’s emissions reduction goals, including investing in clean energy, improving vehicle fuel efficiency, and putting a price on carbon emissions. However, it is unclear whether these policies will be enough to meet the country’s emissions reduction goals.
The 2023 GHG Inventory also highlights the importance of international cooperation to address climate change. The United States cannot achieve its emissions reduction goals on its own. It will need to work with other countries to reduce global emissions. The Paris Agreement provides a framework for international cooperation on climate change, and it is important for the United States to remain engaged in this effort.
The 2023 GHG Inventory is a sobering reminder of the challenges the United States faces in addressing climate change. However, it also provides hope that the country can take action to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. The Biden administration has proposed a number of policies to achieve the country’s emissions reduction goals, and it is important for the United States to remain engaged in international efforts to address climate change.