US Climate Emissions Rose 1.3% in 2022 But Trailed Economic Growth


Greenhouse gas emissions climbed in the US last year but not by as much as in 2021, suggesting the carbon intensity of the economy is declining, says the Rhodium Group.

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(Bloomberg) — Emissions from heat-trapping greenhouses gases in the US inched up in 2022, but at a rate slower than overall economic growth, according to a new report by an independent energy research firm.

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The fact that emissions climbed only 1.3% over 2021, compared to economic growth of 1.9% in the same period, suggests that the carbon intensity of the economy is declining, the Rhodium Group said in its annual sector-by-sector report of emissions. The report is based on preliminary economic and energy data from the US government that will be finalized later this year.

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The small increase marks a shift from last year, when emissions grew more than 6% — even faster than the US economy, which was rebounding from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the US did not return to the period of 2019 to 2020, when emissions were declining in absolute terms. (They also declined from 2014 to 2017.) 

The slight relative drop in 2022 emissions was largely due to electric utilities replacing coal with natural gas, the report said. In total, emissions from electricity generation, which accounts for nearly 30% of the total, were down by 1%.

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Still, this was not enough to offset increases from almost every other sector. Emissions from the building sector, for example, rose 6% due to higher energy consumption for heating in homes, as 2022 reported below-average winter temperatures.

The uptick in emissions means the US is falling further behind in its efforts to meet Paris Agreement targets to limit warming to 1.5C, and thereby avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change. (The planet is already 1.2C warmer than it was before industrialization.) Emissions have declined a total of 15.5% from 2005 levels, the Rhodium Group found. The US goal under President Joe Biden is to cut emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030.



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