White Paper: Pathways to 2050: Scenarios for Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy

Policy Details

Policy Details

Last Action
Introduced to Public
Date of Last Action
May 28 2019
Date Introduced
May 28 2019
Publication Date
May 30 2019
Date Made Public
May 28 2019

SciPol Summary

On May 28, 2019, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) issued a white paper entitled Pathways to 2050: Alternative Scenarios for Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy.  The white paper is the result of a "collaborative exercise" between C2ES and several multinational corporations to examine potential scenarios for achieving 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels by 2050.  This goal is in line with the targets set by the 2015 Paris Agreement

The white paper is comes at a time when multiple NGOs, governments, and corporations are going through the process of scenario planning for deep decarbonization by the middle of the 21st century, and renewed political attention is being paid to GHG emissions reductions policies in the U.S.. 

Working with the RAND Corporation, C2ES came up with three alternative pathways to 80% decarbonization by 2050: one led by federal government policies, one dependent more on state and local government action, and one led mainly by consumer change. Regardless, the reports authors found that no single sector could lead the change alone--deep decarbonization is only possible, the report finds, with cooperation among the federal government, state and local governments, the corporate sectors, and the American public. 

Whichever the approach, key elements of decarbonization, according to the report, include decarbonizing the energy supply, lowering non-CO2 GHG emissions, and carbon sequestration.  Decarbonizing the energy supply, in turn, will mean not just decarbonizing electric power production, but also improving energy efficiency and incentivizing fuel switching for transportation, industrial production, and cooking and heating away from fossil fuels.   

The report has a high degree of corporate buy in from traditional companies in the energy space.  Nonetheless, it concludes that while "technological innovation can greatly facilitate decarbonization, ... without adequate policy drivers," technological innovation alone is not sufficient to achieve deep decarbonization. Government policies must be put in place to enable their cost-effective deployment, the report urges.

 This report is part of an ongoing effort by C2ES to suggest policy pathways toward decarbonizing the US economy, and subsequent work should be seen on this subject from the group in the next few years. 

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