Second largest rise in US emissions recorded in two decades

8th January 2019


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The US recorded its second largest rise in energy-related CO2 emissions for more than two decades last year, pushing the country even further away from meeting its Paris Agreement targets.

Based on preliminary power generation, natural gas and oil consumption data, researchers at the Rhodium Group estimate that US emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018.

This is the second largest increase recorded since 1996, surpassed only by a rise of 3.6% in 2010 when the country's economy bounced back from the Great Recession.

The findings come after three years of declining carbon emissions in the US, and follow president Trump's announcement that he intends to pull the country out of the Paris Agreement.

Power sector emissions as a whole rose by 1.9% in 2018, although the transportation sector held its title as the largest source of emissions for the third year running.

“The buildings and industrial sectors also both posted big year-on-year emissions gains,“ the research authors said. “It highlights the limited progress in developing decarbonisation strategies for these sectors.

“The US was already off track in meeting its Paris Agreement targets – the gap is even wider headed into 2019.“

The rise in emissions came despite a record number of coal-fired power plants being retired last year, with energy generation from coal falling sharply from 2017.

However, the Rhodium Group said power consumption in the US “increased meaningfully“ in 2018, with natural gas meeting the vast majority of the load growth.

Even though energy-related emissions increased last year, they were still 11.2% below 2005 levels, with the researchers saying that they do not expect a repeat in 2019.

However, they warn that the US must cut emissions by 2.6% on average over the next seven years if it is to meet the Paris Agreement target of a 26-28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025.

“That's more than twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017, and significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history, the researchers said.

It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future and/or extremely favorable market and technological conditions.“

Image credit: iStock

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