According to their new study action to build on existing state and federal clean energy policies, the United States can reach its climate goals. It would generate great benefits, including a more than $100 billion reduction in consumer energy costs in 2030, $800 billion in public health benefits by 2050, and nearly $1.3 trillion in avoided climate damages by 2050.
The “Accelerating Clean Energy Ambition: How the US Can Meet its Climate Goals While Delivering Public Health and Economic Benefits” analysis found that to meet critical climate goals—decision-makers must significantly boost policies and investments that decarbonize the power sector.
They should replace fossil fuels with clean electricity in the transportation, building and industrial sectors; and increase energy efficiency.
Meeting U.S. climate goals also requires phasing out coal by 2030 and limiting fossil gas and oil within the next decade and beyond.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)’s clean energy incentives provide important momentum for the United States to make major near-term emissions reductions.
However those could be at risk if fossil fuel use is expanded simultaneously.
While the IRA almost doubles the current pace of annual emissions reductions to about 3% per year through 2030, the country needs to further accelerate its reductions to near 5% per year to achieve its climate targets.
“The urgency of the climate crisis requires a sharp turn away from fossil fuels toward clean energy solutions. Our analysis shows the United States can reap tremendous climate, public health and net economic benefits from doing so,” said Rachel Cleetus, a report author, lead economist and the policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.
She says, “The window to act is narrowing and policymakers must step up quickly or risk crucial climate goals slipping from our grasp. Moreover, they must ensure the clean energy transition centers the needs of communities that have long been marginalized, economically disadvantaged, and overburdened with pollution.”
According to the new analysis, an ambitious suite of policies to decarbonize the U.S. economy and meet climate goals would:
- Drive nearly $1.8 trillion in total cumulative capital investments through 2035 and nearly $3.7 trillion through 2050. As part of that, the IRA, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and existing state policies stimulate $1.6 trillion of investments in clean energy and related infrastructure through 2035.
- Reduce harmful air pollutants avoiding up to 44,800 premature deaths by 2035 and up to 73,000 by 2050 and saving more than $500 billion and $800 billion in public health expenditures by 2035 and 2050, respectively. The public health benefits come from decreasing particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions by 12% by 2050.
- Avoid an additional $575 billion in climate damages by 2035 and nearly $1.3 trillion by 2050, when factoring in the social cost of carbon estimate.
- Cause U.S. fossil fuel use to fall 82% between 2021 and 2050, with oil falling by 85%, gas by 72%, and coal being eliminated entirely.
- Grow the use of wind, solar, and other renewables, which would nearly triple from 22% of U.S. electricity generation in 2021 to 60% in 2030, and 92% in 2050.
- Increase U.S. electricity transmission capacity by 36% by 2030, more than double by 2040, and quadruple by 2050.
“We’re not saying it’ll be easy, but we know that a cleaner and more just energy future is within our reach,” said Steve Clemmer, report author and the director of energy research and analysis at UCS. “The solutions are clear: Transitioning equitably to clean energy, increasing efficiency, and electrifying our cars and homes will not only save us money but will also improve our health and limit the worst impacts of climate change. Our analysis also shows that broader investments to lower overall energy demand provide another crucial pathway for meeting U.S. climate goals.”
When technological changes to the energy systems are combined with feasible changes to reduce demand in other sectors like transportation, buildings, and industry, the analysis found even more public health and economic benefits are possible.
Additional reductions in energy demand help reduce the overall rate and scale of wind, solar, storage, transmission, and other low-carbon technology infrastructure buildout. In turn, it also limits the need for minerals, land, and new infrastructure and helps lessen siting, permitting, supply chain, and public acceptance challenges.
This report builds on the 2021 analysis, “A Transformative Climate Action Framework: Putting People at the Center of our Nation’s Clean Energy Transition,” by UCS and an expert advisory committee. The core principles in that report remain a guiding framework for this updated and more comprehensive analysis.