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New National Academy of Sciences Report Charts Path to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

New National Academy of Sciences Report Charts Path to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

New Report Charts Path to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050, Recommends Near-Term Policies to Ensure Fair and Equitable Economic Transition and Revitalization of Manufacturing Industry

News Release | February 2, 2021

WASHINGTON — Achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2050 is feasible and would not only help address climate change but also build a more competitive economy, increase high-quality jobs, and help address social injustice in the energy system, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The committee that wrote the report emphasized that immediate action and proactive innovation are required and recommended a portfolio of near-term policies to ensure equitable access to benefits generated as a result of this transition, mitigate harms to vulnerable populations and engage public participation in decision-making, and revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector.

CO2 is the primary driver of climate change. Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System says most near-term reductions in emissions would come from the electricity sector, electrification of vehicles, and home heating. Other industries such as aviation, shipping, steel, cement, and chemicals manufacturing will need further innovation to achieve cost-effective decarbonization. 

The report, the first of two, presents a technical blueprint and policy road map for the next 10 years of the nation’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions. Among other actions, the report calls on Congress and the executive branch to set an economy-wide emissions budget for the next several decades. Starting with a price of $40 per ton of carbon, increased annually by 5 percent, this budget will create an economic incentive to reduce carbon emissions and unlock innovation in every corner of the energy economy, according to the report.

To guide policymakers through the transition, the report lays out nine technological and socio-economic goals to reach by 2030:

  • Producing carbon-free electricity. The nation needs to double the share of electricity generated by non-carbon-emitting sources to at least 75 percent. This will require deploying record-setting levels of solar and wind technologies, scaling back coal and some gas-fired power plants, and preserving operating nuclear plants and hydroelectric facilities where possible.
  • Electrifying energy services in transportation, buildings, and industry.  Fifty percent of new vehicle sales across all classes should be zero-emission vehicles.  The U.S. should replace at least 20 percent of fossil fuel furnaces with electric heat pumps in buildings and initiate policies so that new construction is all electric except in the coldest climate zones.  Where industrial processes cannot be fully electrified, they should begin the transition to low-carbon heat sources.
  • Investing in energy efficiency and productivity.  Total energy use by new buildings should be reduced by 50 percent.  In existing buildings, energy used for space conditioning and plug-in devices should be lowered …

Read the rest and get the full report here:

Legislative Actions

Time critical actions:

Municipal Sustainability Checklist

We have created a municipal “sustainability checklist” that can help towns compare what they are doing with other towns, as well as get ideas and encourage collaboration. For residents, the checklist helps understand what towns are doing and not doing, as well as set priorities for local advocacy. For organizers, the checklist is an excellent tool to organize local groups around, and to build networks of people who care about sustainability.

Click here for details.