Use Case
Tue, 24 Oct 2023
Why the US Needs to Decarbonize Transportation Right Now!

The United States, one of the major global emitting economies, is also the one with the largest progress towards reducing its emissions levels in recent years. In this report, we will dive deeper into the five largest emitting sectors within the US, to show which of the sectors are on a steady path to reducing emissions and which are diverging away from targets. This will give a better understanding on the sectors which the country’s governance should target the most to push their overall net-zero agenda to more ambitious levels. 

Our studies show that in the course of the last 30 years (1990-2019) the five sectors that are most responsible for the country’s overall emissions are: electricity & heat, transport, buildings, manufacturing & construction, and agriculture, as shown in the Figure 1 below. 

Figure 1: The five largest polluting sectors in the US since 1990. 

Looking at the level changes over time, we identified that Electricity and Heat, regardless of it being the largest emitting sector, is also the sector getting closer to net-zero fast, with an overall growth rate of -25% from its 2009. To put this into perspective, each year since 2009, the US has cumulatively emitted 534.42 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents less since 2009, only from the reduction coming from the Electricity and Heat sector. The opposite is true for the Transport sector, which has recently getting further from decarbonization targets, with an overall emissions growth rate of +5% since 2010, corresponding to a cumulative increase of CO2 equivalents emitted into the atmosphere equal to 141.64 million tonnes. Figure 2a an Figure 2b respectively demonstrate the overall growth rates in emissions for each of the five sectors shown above and the overall increase of reduction levels of CO2 equivalents for the same decade 2009-2019. 

Figure 2a: Average emissions growth rate since 2009 in the top 5 emitting US sectors.  

Figure 2b:  Cumulative emissions reduction/increase since 2009 in the top 5 emitting US sectors. 

To rank the five sectors on their progress to net-zero for the last 30 years, we applied our proprietary model that derives scores from the change components that are shown in Figure 2. The scores, which transparently reflect the historical changes, provide the ranking shown in Figure 3, with the least progressive Sector being Transportation, followed by Agriculture & Buildings and the best sectors by progress being Electricity & Heat and Manufacturing.

Figure 3: Sektoral Ranking by ESG Progress (Nova) Scores. 

These results highlight the importance of setting ambitious decarbonization targets and deploying the necessary capital to ensure that the five top polluting sectors are transformed into greener equivalents on a macro scale. Such results are also well-aligned and bring about the urgency of  the Green Infrastructure Agenda proposed by the Biden Administration. 

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