People are worried Trump will stop climate progress. The numbers suggest he can’t – Washington Post
The emissions impacts of changes to U.S. federal policy are more difficult to assess. Many factors will play a role, such as the shares of natural gas and coal in the electricity sector, as well as energy efficiency investments that drive down demand. However, we estimate that the U.S. can achieve the majority share of its original 2025 emissions reduction target even with federal policy changes. More ambitious state policies would further compensate for changes at the federal level.
On the basis of these numbers alone, it’s clear that the United States will continue to contribute to clean energy market expansion and emissions reduction even with changes to federal policy. Additionally, several states are well positioned to increase their clean energy ambition to keep the U.S. mostly on track to meeting its near-term clean energy commitments, and to keep longer-term emissions goals – not yet implemented in policy – within reach.
Moreover, many countries are likely to stick to their climate plans. China, which represents more than one third of the expected solar PV and wind capacity growth between now and 2030, has indicated it plans to do so. The EU commitment looks strong as well. The demand created in China, the EU, and India – together accounting for over 50 percent of global solar PV and wind capacity additions by 2030 – argues for companies to stay competitive in these markets.
In purely economic terms, there are arguments for moving ahead with climate and clean energy policies. Much innovation in wind and solar is expected through local installation experience. The international competitiveness of Danish firms in off-shore wind due to experience supported by national policies is well documented. In the U.S., the growth of the solar and wind industry is increasingly entangled with individual states’ economic development, regardless of their support for climate policy.
The United States must aggressively reduce its emissions for global climate change mitigation to be successful, and should contribute its fair share to clean energy research – but over the course of one or two terms, a Trump administration alone cannot halt global progress. Even if U.S. federal policy is diminished, individual states are well equipped to take up the slack. Moral and ethical considerations aside, self-interest should induce national, state, and local governments and companies to step forward to compete in clean energy markets, rather than hold back until the next U.S. president is elected.
Jessika E. Trancik is an associate professor of energy studies in the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Email: [email protected] Magdalena M. Klemun and Morgan R. Edwards are graduate students in the Trancik Lab at MIT, who contributed to this piece. Other members of the Trancik Lab also contributed to the analysis.