The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, or C2ES, has released a report outlining what it believes are three plausible pathways for the U.S. to curb its emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.
The report was produced in consultation with about 20 large companies and in partnership with the Rand Corporation and the Joint Global Change Research Institute, which is a collaboration of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland. C2ES is also part of a broader initiative to prompt companies to lobby federal lawmakers to set an economywide price on carbon.
"The private sector is an essential partner in any decarbonization pathway, and timely business leadership can help ensure choices that are beneficial for both companies and society as a whole," the report said.
Companies are already being pressured by investors to assess and disclose their long-term climate-related risks and opportunities in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. And much like many prior scientific and other studies on decarbonization options, the new C2ES report found that curbing global emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change will require large-scale, rapid action from the private sector and local and federal governments.
While the report honed in on three plausible pathways to the U.S. curbing 80% of its emissions to help meet the global Paris accord objectives, the report acknowledged decarbonization can be achieved through a myriad of avenues. That said, the success of any pathway will hinge on whether it has high levels of public support "expressed through stronger demand for effective policies and/or low-carbon goods and services," the report said.
In particular, the report said achieving an 80% emissions cut by 2050 would require decarbonizing the power sector; substituting electricity and biofuels for fossil fuels in transportation, buildings and industry; increasing end-use energy efficiency; increasing carbon sequestration; and reducing the emissions of non-carbon climate pollutants.
The first pathway detailed by the report for achieving those goals would require the U.S. to establish an economy-wide carbon price by 2024, set more rigorous vehicle emissions standards, and make strong investments in researching and deploying low-carbon technologies.
A second pathway assumes that the federal government will take until 2031 to establish an economywide carbon price, but in the meantime, coastal states expand the trading of carbon and an increasing percentage of people begin to drive electric vehicles.
The third pathway detailed by the report predicts the U.S. could still reach the 80% goal without federal leadership if states and businesses step up their efforts. The report said cities would need to make large investments in public transit, establish more stringent building codes, and implement zero-emissions vehicle mandates for ride-sharing services. Moreover, the power sector would have to voluntarily reduce emissions by 85% by 2050.
The study's authors consulted with a number of companies to produce the report, including ABB Inc., AECOM, Arizona Public Service Co., BASF SE, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, BHP Group PLC, BP PLC, Dow Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Entergy Corp., Exelon Corp., Intel Corp., Johnson Controls International PLC, Mars Inc., Microsoft Corp., Novartis AG, PG&E Corp.'s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Toyota Motor North America Inc.