US and EU commit to ambitious reductions in GHG emissions

April 22, 2021
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A COP26 initiative white paper

On Earth Day (April 22) 2021, the Biden administration kicked off a virtual two-day climate summit with a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50-52% below 2005 emissions levels by 2030. A day earlier, the EU confirmed its previously signaled target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, every five years members set emissions reduction targets, called nationally determined contributions (NDC).

The US commitment is more ambitious than its original NDC from 2015, which had a target of 17% below 2005 emissions by 2020 and 26-28% below 2005 emissions by 2025. Emissions in the reference year of 2005 were within 1% of the peak annual emissions. Emissions increased significantly from 1990 to 2005 and decreased 13% from 2005 to 2019. The NDC target significantly accelerates the recent trajectory (not including the anomalous year of 2020).

The previous EU commitment was to reach 45% below 1990 levels by 2030. The EU has shown a steady decline in emissions since 1990 and the target seems to continue the trajectory with a slight acceleration.

The following chart illustrates historical emissions and NDC targets for the US and the EU through 2030:

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