US greenhouse gas emissions rise six percent in 2021

In short: Given the growing popularity of electric vehicles in the US, one would think the country is on track to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, it looks like the opposite could have happened in 2021, with new estimates that US greenhouse gas emissions increased 6 percent last year. This is a small but significant spike that suggests that the world is starting to return to normal, at least when it comes to fuel demand.

It should be noted that this figure relative to 2020 indicators, which were lower than usual due to a sharp decline in fuel demand. There were fewer flights (indeed, many airlines were forced to suspend flights), and many potential drivers stayed at home; either quarantined or work from home through Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Compared to the pre-pandemic period in 2019, emissions in 2021 were still lower across the board. In 2019, transport alone emitted more than 1,800 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the United States. In 2020, that figure dropped to below 1,600, but in 2021 it returned to just over 1,700 metric tons, which of course is still notably below 2019.

Less radical changes have taken place in other sectors. Emissions from industry and construction have only increased slightly since 2020 and almost reached parity with last year’s 2019 levels.

The Rhodium Group, behind these estimates, notes that emissions in 2021 are “further misleading” the US when it comes to meeting the environmental goals of the Paris Agreement. Of course, expecting a country to continue its emission reduction trajectory beyond a year like 2020 is not entirely reasonable given how drastic the deviation is.

Nonetheless, Rodium points out that the Paris Agreement targets require the United States to reduce emissions by 50-52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. As of 2020, the US hit the 22 percent mark, but progress has slowed in 2021. up to 17.4%.

It remains to be seen if emissions will increase even more this year. It won’t be a surprise if isolation fatigue finally gives way to a massive boom in travel and vacations, but only time will tell.

Headline loan: American Association for Public Authority

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