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United States Current situation

What is The United Statesʼ pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

How to citeLast update: January 2023

Emissions profile

The energy sector in the US is by far the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for more than 80% of total emissions excluding LULUCF. GHG emissions in the US increased significantly during the 1990s before levelling off and peaking in 2007. This trend was largely driven by changes in the energy sector, which was the fastest growing emissions source before peaking in 2005. Since then, energy sector emissions have declined by 15% (as of 2019), largely driven by the availability of cheaper fossil gas and renewables and the subsequent decline in coal consumption in the energy sector.

Within the energy sector, the highest share of emissions comes from the power sector (30%), closely followed by the transport sector (28%). Emissions from the industry and waste sectors have continued to decline since 1990 while agriculture emissions have increased slightly.

1 The United States of America. The United States of America – Nationally Determined Contribution. 2021.

2 Climate Action Tracker & New Climate Institute. USA | Climate Action Tracker. 2022.

3 Rep. Yarmuth, J. A. H.R.5376 – Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. (117th Congress, 2022).

4 Climate Action Tracker. To show climate leadership, US 2030 target should be at least 57-63% – Mar 2021. (2021).

5 U.S. Department of State. The Long-Term Strategy of the United States: Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050. 2021.

6 Shepardson, D. U.S. aims for zero-emissions heavy-duty vehicles by 2040. Reuters. 2022.

7 The White House. Executive Order on Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks. The White House. 2021.

8 Biden for President. The Biden plan to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future. (2020).

9 Larsen, J. et al. A Turning Point for US Climate Progress: Assessing the Climate and Clean Energy Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. 2022.

10 NCSL. State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals. NCSL. 2021.

11 Barbose, G. L. U.S. Renewables Portfolio Standards 2021 Status Update: Early Release. 2021.

12 Denholm, P. et al. Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035. 2022.

13 ICAP. Welcome to the ICAP ETS Map. International Carbon Action Partnership. 2022.

14 Cui, H. & Hall, D. Annual update on the global transition to electric vehicles: 2021. ICCT. Preprint at (2022).

15 E360. U.S. Inflation Reduction Act to Boost EV Adoption by 20 Percent, Analysis Finds. Yale Environment 360. 2022.

16 Wilson, K. Advocates: Cutting High Speed Rail Out of Climate Bill Was a Mistake. Streetsblog USA. 2022.

17 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

18 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

The United Statesʼ current GHG emissions


Displayed values

By sector

  • Power
  • Transport
  • Industry (energy use)
  • Buildings
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Other
  • Agriculture
  • Industry (processes)
  • Waste
Energy (83%)⟵ LULUCF negative emissions

By gas

  • CO₂
  • CH₄
  • N₂O
  • Other

Sectors by gas

Industry (processes)

Energy system

The US primary energy mix is dominated by fossil fuels, with oil contributing 36% (mostly used in the transport sector), fossil gas 34%, and coal 12% in 2019. Nuclear energy accounts for 10%, while renewable energy makes up about 8% of the energy mix. The pace of renewable energy deployment in the US has lagged behind others such as the European Union, as retiring coal capacity has largely been replaced by fossil gas and regulatory rollbacks have supported fossil fuels.

The share of fossil gas in the power mix has been increasing, and it is largely replacing coal. In 2017, gas and coal had about equal shares in the power mix, but by 2019, the share of gas had increased to 38% while coal decreased to 25%. Nuclear (19%) and renewable energy including biomass (18%) made up the bulk of the remaining generation.

While there are existing policy gaps in the energy sector, President Biden has presented ambitious energy sector reforms including the goal to achieve a “100% clean energy economy” by 2050.8 Biden’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan also includes a target to achieve a “carbon-free power” sector by 2035.8 The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, is expected to help narrow this gap with significant measures targeting the energy sector such as support for renewable energy and electric vehicles.3

Targets and commitments

Economy-wide targets

Target type

Base year emissions target

NDC target

  • 50–52% below 2005 by 2030 (incl. LULUCF).1
  • 44-47% below 2005 by 2030 (excl. LULUCF).2

Market mechanism

  • “At this time, the United States does not intend to use voluntary cooperation using cooperative approaches referred to in Article 6.2 or the mechanism referred to in Article 6.4 in order to achieve its target.”1

Long-term target

  • The US long term strategy (LTS) aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.5 The LTS covers all greenhouse gases and sectors.

Sector coverage


Greenhouse gas coverage


Sectoral targets


Biden climate plan targets:

  • “100% clean energy economy” by 2050.8


Biden climate and energy plan targets:

  • Reduce the carbon footprint of the US building stock by 50% by 2035.
  • Net zero emissions standard for all new commercial buildings from 2030.
  • Retrofit 4 million commercial buildings and weatherise 2 million homes within 4 years.


Biden climate and energy plan targets:

  • Carbon-free power sector by 2035.


Biden climate and energy plan targets:

  • Provide all Americans in cities over 100,000 with quality public transport by 2030.
  • Upgrade 3 million public fleet vehicles.
  • 100% of light/medium duty vehicles electric (no timeline).
  • Deploy more than 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030.
  • All new US built buses to have zero emissions by 2030, and to convert all 500,000 school buses to zero-emissions vehicles.

Other targets:

  • 50% of new light-duty vehicle sales electric by 2030.7
  • 30% of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales to be zero-emission by 2030 and 100% by 2040.6