It looks like the US is on its way to meet its emissions reductions targets under the Paris Climate Agreement, at least if the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) findings earlier this year are any indicator. Earlier this year the agency found that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell to its lowest level for the first six months of 2016 since 1991—that’s 25 years.
EIA reported in its Short-Term Energy Outlook that CO2 emissions fell to 2,530 million metric tons in the first six months of 2016. Furthermore, looking ahead to the quickly approaching end of the year, the EIA anticipated that CO2 emissions will fall to 5,179 million metric tons for all of 2016. That will be the lowest full-year level since 1992.
The report reaffirms earlier findings in 2016 by Ceres. That organization found that the US’s electric producers have significantly reduced emissions of air pollutants by 15 percent between 2005 and 2014. It’s report also found that they may have dropped another 6 percent in 2015.
The agency, part of the Department of Energy, stated that the changing energy generation mix, as well as, mild weather were factors that contributed to the lower emissions. It also noted that transitioning to renewable energy and decreasing dependence on coal—particularly—and natural gas were factors in the lower emissions.
"Consumption of renewable fuels that do not produce carbon dioxide increased 9 percent during the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015,” EIA stated when it made the initial announcement in October. It attributed most of the increased reliance on renewables to wind, which it said accounted for most of the increase. Hydroelectric accounted for 35 percent of the increase.
“Solar energy accounted for 13 percent of the increase and is expected to see the largest capacity additions of any fuel in 2016,” EIA said. That’s a slight change from 2015 when wind power was the largest source of new power.
Coal-fired electric generation saw the biggest drop in use, according to EIA. “Coal consumption fell 18 percent, while natural gas consumption fell 1 percent,” it said. That’s important because coal-based power produces the most carbon emissions.
The administration attributed the increase in hydroelectric to easing drought conditions in the West, part of a larger trend of mild weather. The US also had the fewest heating degree days—days that energy is consumed for heating—since at least 1949, the earliest year that it had monthly data for all 50 states. “Warmer weather during winter months reduces demand for heating fuels such as natural gas, distillate heating oil, and electricity,” it said. Those milder weather trends meant that energy use was 2 percent lower than the first six months of 2015.
Should the trends continue, as expected, US emissions should continue to come down. This will help the country meet—and hopefully exceed—its requirements under the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to halt climate change to 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees centigrade by reducing global emissions.Tweet