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United States Sectors

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

How to citeLast update: January 2023

The building sector CO₂ emissions in the US have fluctuated since the 1990s but have slightly trended downward as the sector electrifies and uses less oil. In 2017, the sector’s CO₂ emissions accounted for 8% of total US emissions.

Our analysis indicates that direct CO₂ emissions in the building sector would need to decline by 61–73% by 2030 and reach zero by 2034 to 2049. This would be enabled by increased electrification, from about half of the sector’s energy use in 2019 to 70–75% by 2030 and 90–92% by mid-century.

The US does not have a national emissions reduction target or strategy for the building sector; however, several states have adopted policies and several federal programmes exist to improve energy efficiency of buildings. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes provisions for both new buildings and for the retrofit of existing buildings, such as support for states and local governments to implement more stringent energy codes and incentives for improved efficiency and electrification particularly for low- and moderate-income households.3

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 energy mix in the buildings sector

petajoule per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
201920302040205020 00030 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
201920302040205020 00030 000
Low energy demand
201920302040205020 00030 000
High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
201920302040205020 00030 000
  • Natural gas
  • Coal
  • Oil and e-fuels
  • Biofuel
  • Biogas
  • Biomass
  • Hydrogen
  • Electricity
  • Heat

The United Statesʼ buildings sector direct CO₂ emissions (of energy demand)


  • Historical emissions
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
  • Low energy demand

1.5°C compatible buildings sector benchmarks

Direct CO₂ emissions and shares of electricity, heat and biomass in the buildings final energy demand from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for The United States

Decarbonised buildings sector by
Direct CO₂ emissions
148 to 216
14 to 114
7 to 51
2034 to 2049
Relative to reference year in %
−73 to −61%
−97 to −79%
−99 to −91%
Share of electricity
70 to 75
86 to 88
90 to 92
Share of heat
0 to 1
0 to 2
1 to 4
Share of hydrogen
0 to 4
0 to 28
0 to 46