New US climate law to slice carbon pollution by 40%, study shows

President Joe Biden's package will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1 billion tonnes by end of decade

The cut is equivalent to about the annual greenhouse gas emissions of every home in the US. AP
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Clean energy incentives in the new spending package signed this week by US President Joe Biden will trim emissions of heat-trapping gases by about one billion metric tonnes by 2030, a Department of Energy analysis has shown.

The first official federal calculations, shared with the Associated Press before their release on Thursday, show that between the bill and last year's infrastructure spending law, by the end of the decade, the US will be producing about 1.15 billion metric tonnes less carbon pollution than it would have without the laws.

That is equivalent to about the annual greenhouse gas emissions of every home in the US.

The analysis found that with the new law, by 2030, US greenhouse gas emissions should be about 40 per cent lower than 2005 levels — which is still not at the announced target of cutting carbon pollution between 50 per cent and 52 per cent by the end of the decade.

But that 40 per cent reduction is similar to earlier calculations by the independent research firm Rhodium Group, which figured cuts would be 31 per cent to 44 per cent, and the scientists at Climate Action Tracker, which said the drop would be 26 per cent to 42 per cent.

Most of the projected emissions reductions in the nearly $375 billion spending package would come through promoting “clean energy”, mostly solar and wind power and electric vehicles, the federal analysis said.

More than half of the overall projected emission drops would come in how the nation generates electricity, the analysis said. About 10 per cent of the savings in emissions come from agriculture and land conservation.

The new law’s provisions that call for oil and gas leasing on federal land and water “may lead to some increase” in carbon pollution, the federal analysis said, but the other provisions to spur cleaner energy cut 35 tonnes of greenhouse gas for every new tonne of pollution from the increased oil and gas drilling.

Outside experts, such as Bill Hare of Climate Action Tracker, say the new law is a big step for the US, but it’s still not enough, considering that America, the biggest historic carbon polluter, had done little for decades and lags behind Europe.

“At this point, anything going in that direction you count as a win, right?” National Centre for Atmospheric Research climate scientist Gerald Meehl, who wasn’t part of the analysis, said about what the new law will do.

“I mean, after so long a time of total inaction and knowing how difficult politically it is to get the country moving in a direction like this due to politics and economics and all the other things involved with this issue.

“You can argue that’s not nearly enough, but I think once you start seeing motion, you hope that then we can build on that and kind of keep the ball rolling.”

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Updated: August 18, 2022, 3:49 PM
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