Where Does the USA Stand On Sustainability?

The race to net-zero is underway. While many countries are accelerating their efforts for a sustainable future, you may find yourself asking, “Where does the USA stand on sustainability?”

Currently the position is closer to the “middle of the pack,” which is a better place now than it was a few years ago. The US did not officially enter “the race” until 202, and there is a long way to go to catch up to countries such as Bhutan and Suriname.

These are the only two countries to fully achieve carbon neutrality while removing more carbon than they emanate, currently leading the Race to Net Zero. Uruguay is in third place with a 2030 target, followed by Finland, Austria, Iceland, Germany, and Sweden, who are all targeting 2045 or earlier.

To increase its position in the race, the US is taking aggressive steps and progressive measures, getting on the track to reduce emission levels drastically by 2050.

As of April 2021, a new target was set to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction below 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. This is a bold and aggressive goal that can set America on the path to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, and net zero emissions by or no later than 2050. According to The White House Briefing Room, “To develop the goal, the Administration analyzed how every sector of the economy can spur innovation, unleash new opportunities, drive competitiveness, and cut pollution. The target builds on leadership from mayors, county executives, governors, tribal leaders, businesses, faith groups, cultural institutions, health care organizations, investors, and communities who have worked together tirelessly to ensure sustained progress in reducing pollution in the United States”.

The US Government will enhance an ambitious transformation which is necessary to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Some initiatives in place will provide major funding to schools, municipalities, residents, and small and large businesses by way of grants and low interest loans.

These initiatives will also generate financial incentives with an emphasis on opportunity creation that will prioritize US workers whilst creating millions of quality jobs for Americans. This process will increase the domestic supply chains; positioning the US to ship American-made, clean energy products around the world.

Such production will fuel equitable recovery, expand supply chains and manufacturing, thus building a more sustainable future on many levels. With the right strategic plans in place, investment in infrastructure and innovation, this can surely come into fruition.

5 KEY STRATEGIES TO REACH NET ZERO

1.     Finance: Finance plays a key role in the transitioning to a sustainable, clean, climate-resilient future. The US plans to dedicate trillions of dollars to see their plans come to life. Ambitious benchmarks for investments set forth by the Development Finance Corporation will go into play where they plan to have a net-zero portfolio by 2040.

A variety of grant programs issued through the entities like the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the National Institute of Food Agriculture, and many Acts (i.e., American Rescue Plan Act) will provide billions of dollars across the US for new sustainability initiatives, programs, and resources.

Funding will also be allocated through the Department of Defense since Climate Change has been identified as a critical national security threat. The US also plans to issue the first US international climate financing plan, which will lay out a detailed plan explaining the allocation funds for a greater global impact.

2.     International Involvement: The US intends to double the international climate financing needs in 2024. This will give the US the ability to aid developing countries in their efforts of sustainability.

The US will also show collaborative efforts by working with allies and partners around the world. Some of these partners and programs include: The US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda, Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean initiative, and a large variety of multinational programs with nations like Australia, Botswana, Canada, Peru, and the European Commission.

A combined global effort is necessary to achieve net-zero emissions for the planet. This cannot be a lone effort.

3.     Transportation Revolution: The levels of emissions created by transportation provide some of the biggest hurdles to this agenda, which is why a zero-emission transforming revolution will have a major impact.

The Department of Transportation is taking assertive actions by using and funding alternatively fueled vehicles, reducing emissions from aviation and resourcing other options for fueling needs that are less hazardous to the planet. The US intends to develop and adopt new technology and sustainable fuels that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

4.     Technology Transformation: With accelerated research in the areas of gases, industrial fuels, and energy storage, technological innovations can begin. Programs such as FIRST, the Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modulator Reactor Technology, provide research and support nuclear technologies and clean energy solutions.  

5.     Investing in Nature:  A shift to nature-positive, net-zero land use plays a fundamental role. Approximately $44 trillion of the global economy is generated by nature. With use of croplands and agricultural practices coupled with forestry and other land uses, 24% of global emissions are used in that process which account for substantial land use and deforestation. By halting deforestation globally, restoring forests, funding nature-based approaches to ecosystem resilience, and promoting resilience in oceans will drive the starting points for this endeavor.

The US has vowed to work with the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance (LEAF) Coalition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and additional governmental and private partners to assure funding and growth of their efforts.

Arriving at the finish line in 2050 seems more than plausible for the US. There have been ACTs signed, proposals presented, and funding approved along with many cities, businesses and schools taking an impressive initiative.

Implementation of this plan with full cooperation, will ensure a major change in the US’s position in the Race to Zero by 2035. “Although the net-zero finish line feels far off in the distance, the good news is that we can get there, and do so in a way that is good for business and promises a resilient future that vastly justifies taking action” says – Justin Adams & Gonzalo Muñoz.

Contributed by David L. Powell III from Sunbolt