What were United States carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions like in 2017, the first year President Donald Trump was in office? Based on preliminary estimates, the Rhodium Group said US emissions declined by just below one percent, thanks to changes in the energy sector. Electrek crunched the numbers and found 94.7 percent of net new electricity capacity came from renewables. But emissions from buildings, industry, and transportation increased – and America has a ways to go to meet Paris Agreement goals.
Nearly 80 percent of reduction in American energy-related CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2016 are thanks to the electric power sector, according to the Rhodium Group. They said in an article, “Improved efficiency of buildings and appliances has helped flatten electricity demand, and coal has lost market share to lower-carbon natural gas and zero-carbon renewables. That trend continued in 2017.”
The group said coal lost ground to other power sources. Solar, wind, and hydropower generation growth displaced coal and natural gas. Between January and October generation from the two more-polluting fuels fell by 138 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) compared against the same period the year before – and renewable generation increased by 75 million kWh. But energy-related CO2 emissions increased in other sectors – “offsetting more than one-quarter of the gains made in electric power,” according to the Rhodium Group.
Even though Trump yanked America out of the Paris Accord, many states and cities said they’d stay in and work towards the United States’ goals. The Rhodium Group said, “Recent climate and clean energy policy developments at the state and city-level policy developments could potentially accelerate last year’s pace of emission reductions, while recent federal regulatory changes could slow that progress.”
They said America seems to be on track to reach the 2009 Copenhagen Accord goal of 17 percent reduction under 2005 levels by 2020, as long as the country keeps up the one percent energy-related CO2 emissions decline and there are no big changes in other emissions. The Paris Agreement pledge was 26 to 28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2025. America is not on track to achieve that – the country would need an average annual reduction of 1.7 to two percent in energy-related CO2 emissions over the upcoming eight years.