In letter : Considering the growing popularity of electric vehicles in the United States, one would think that the country would be on the right track to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, it appears the opposite has happened in 2021: According to new estimates, U.S. GHG emissions increased 6% last year. It’s a slight but not insignificant increase that suggests the world is starting to get back to normal, at least when it comes to fuel demand.
It is worth noting that this figure is compared to 2020 figures, which were lower than normal due to a massive drop in fuel demand. Fewer flights were taking off (indeed, many airlines were forced to tie up their fleets) and many potential drivers were staying at home; either by quarantining or working from home through Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Compared to the pre-Covid days of 2019, 2021 emissions were still below all levels. In 2019, the United States saw well over 1,800 metric tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere from transportation alone. In 2020 that number has dropped to levels below 1,600, but in 2021 it has rebounded to just over 1,700 metric tonnes – still significantly lower than the 2019 numbers, of course.
Other sectors have seen less drastic changes. Emissions from industry and construction increased only slightly from 2020 figures and were almost at par with 2019 last year.
The group behind the estimates, Rhodium Group, notes that the 2021 emissions put the United States “a step further” when it comes to meeting the environmental objectives of the Paris Agreement. Of course, expecting the country to continue on a downward emissions path after a year like 2020 isn’t entirely reasonable, given how much of an outlier this is.
Nonetheless, as Rhodium points out, the Paris Agreement targets require the United States to reduce its emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In 2020, the United States achieved the 22% mark, but in 2021, progress has slowed down. at 17.4 percent.
It remains to be seen whether emissions will rise even further this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if lockdown fatigue finally gave way to a massive travel and vacation boom, but only time will tell.
Masthead Credit: American Public Energy Association
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