Biden sets goal of 50% less greenhouse gases by 2030.
The United States, Japan and Canada all committed to huge climate goals at a two-day climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden. This is the first climate meeting since the US rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, so he went big. The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the rise in global average temperature to well below 2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to stop catastrophic climate change. We're a little bit over 1-degree C right now.
Biden said the goal is to cut emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels, which was the country's peak at about 7,500 million tons, by 2030. Those emissions include CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. CO2 makes up the lion's share of this. Cutting from 2005 levels would put us at about 3,250 million tons, which means we were about 14% of the way there in 2019.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga raised Japan's target for cutting emissions to 46% by 2030 (a lot more Priuses), up from 26%. Environmentalists wanted more but Japan has a powerful coal lobby. Canada's Justin Trudeau raised his country's goal to 40%-45%, up from 30%.
So, what does this mean for us car lovers? We have a lot to be happy about as EVs are taking hold, raising average fuel economy and therefore lowering emissions. Our V8s are cleaner, as are our V12s. And I4s are making the same power as V6s used to. Many make more than V8s if you compare them to the Malaise Era of the '70s and '80s.
But we are culpable. Though the transportation sector only accounts for 29% of US emissions, it is the largest polluter over electricity (25%) and industry (23%) (followed by commercial/residential and agriculture). Some of that electricity piece of the pie goes towards cars, which is something we'll have to consider soon, but for now that amount is negligible.
Breaking that down, according to the EPA "the largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions include passenger cars, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans." They account for over half of the emissions from the transportation sector. The remains come from other modes of transportation.
So that means cars and trucks were responsible for about 15% (1,012 million tons) of greenhouse gases in 2019. If the car industry has generally followed the country, it has cut 14% or so since 2005. That means it too has 36% to go to get to about 575 million tons per year of emissions. Efficiency needs to go up at least that much for us to be considered doing our fair share. That might seem crazy but let us remind you that new passenger vehicles are 98% cleaner for most tailpipe pollutants compared to the 1960s. As fuel economies go up, emissions go down.
From 1980 to 1985 real-world fuel economy went up from about 17 mpg to almost 22 mpg, that was a 25% jump in five years. It dropped back down until 2005 but as of 2019 its back up to 24.9 mpg overall. If we take our 36% improvement, we're looking at an overall average of 33.8 mpg by 2030.
If that happens, and there's no reason the auto industry can't meet or beat that in the next nine years, whenever someone says something about tailpipe emissions, you can be the one to say, "we made our advancements, we did our part, talk to the industrial sector!" Now if we can just start making more electricity from renewable sources, we could compound the advantage of EVs. And if that happens, maybe we can hang on to our V8s a little while longer too.