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Chart: The US can’t meet its climate goals unless states step up

But if the 24 states with aggressive emissions-reduction targets make good on their pledges, the country could get within striking distance of its 2030 commitment.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Two things are true about the Inflation Reduction Act: It is the biggest piece of climate legislation in U.S. history — and it’s likely not enough on its own to get the U.S. to its Paris Agreement goals.

In order for the U.S. to close the remaining gap between its post-IRA emissions trajectory and its goal of halving carbon emissions by 2030, the country will need to rely on state action, according to a new report from the Environmental Defense Fund.

EDF projects that in 2030, net U.S. emissions will be 36 percent lower than 2005 levels, leaving the country well short of its goal of achieving a 50 percent reduction by that time. In this scenario, the remaining emissions gap would stand at 962 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

The EDF report identifies 24 states that already have emissions-reduction commitments aligned with national goals. If those states hit their targets, they could cut that emissions gap by 418 million metric tons of CO2e — a 43 percent reduction. The remaining shortfall will have to be overcome by factors such as new rules limiting pollution (EPA is working on this), faster-than-expected clean energy deployments and the introduction of carbon-pricing mechanisms, EDF writes.

States have a leading role to play in driving U.S. climate progress, and our country is counting on them to deliver on their promises,” Pam Kiely, associate vice president for U.S. climate at Environmental Defense Fund, told Canary Media.

But right now, the 24 states with nationally aligned climate goals are not on track to actually meet those targets. As a group, they’re on track to cut emissions between 27 and 39 percent by 2030, a wide range that still falls short of the 50 percent reduction threshold.

The Inflation Reduction Act will be key to helping states close their own emissions gaps, Kiely said.

In just its first year, the law has spurred more than $80 billion in new investment across more than 100 new clean energy manufacturing facilities and expansions to existing ones. And development of new U.S. solar, wind and battery storage projects is booming, too. The incentives sparking this nationwide surge in clean energy development also make it much easier — and cheaper — for states to meet their climate commitments, Kiely said.

Federal investments from the IRA give these governors an unprecedented boost by buying down the cost of clean energy solutions. Governors must take this golden opportunity to enact bold climate policy that curbs emissions in line with their commitments, unleashes clean energy jobs and slashes health-harming pollution,” said Kiely. 

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Maria Virginia Olano is chief of staff at Canary Media.