The US greenhouse gas emissions jumped around 6,2% during 2021 from 2020 levels, according to a new report from the Rhodium Group, a research organization.
Firstly, the increase happened as during 2021 the use of coal-fired electricity jumped 17%. Also, as the economy recovered from the hit of the pandemic and mobility restrictions eased, many drivers returned to the roads. Traveling by plane also grew substantially during 2021 compared to 2020.
Moreover, the report analyzed preliminary U.S. emissions data for 2021. It found that emissions growth outpaced the rate of economic recovery, using estimates that GDP grew by 5.7% year-on-year.
In addition, this is relevant as 2021 was the year that was supposed to mark the recovery after the pandemic; with an upheaval of the economy, but also it was supposed to mark a clear path towards decarbonization.
Consequently, the report’s results show how the US is now further away from meeting its target of slashing emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. In fact, this was a major issue for the Biden administration, especially after rejoining the Paris Agreement.
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US greenhouse gas emissions increase driven by coal and transportation
Furthermore, the report shows that US greenhouse gas emissions were 17.4% below 2005 levels in 2021; up from 22.2% below 2005 levels in 2020.
On the other hand, driving the emissions growth were the transportation and electric power sectors; whose greenhouse gas emissions rose 10% and 6.6%, respectively in 2021, both rebounding around 2/3 of the drop from 2019 levels, as Reuters reports.
As we have reported previously, the market’s tightness with natural gas; especially in Europe provoked a switch to coal for power generations. Specifically in the US, natural gas high prices led to a 17% rise in coal generation. According to the report, this was the first increase since 2014.
Finally, the US transportation sector saw the largest increase of net emissions in 2021, a year after experiencing a 15% decline in 2020 from 2019 levels. At that time, it was the largest decline in greenhouse gas emissions led by a drastic drop in road travel due to the coronavirus.