U.S. greenhouse gas emissions surged by 6.2 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, Rhodium Group said in its preliminary estimates, which put the United States further off track to achieve the Biden Administration's climate goals.
Emissions remained 5 percent below pre-pandemic levels, Rhodium Group said, but noted that greenhouse gas emissions rose faster than the growth in U.S. economy last year, largely due to a jump in coal-fired power generation, which increased by 17 percent from 2020, and a rapid rebound in road transportation, primarily freight.
The electric power sector, which accounts for 28 percent of net U.S. emissions, saw the second-largest increase in GHG emissions from 2020 levels. Last year, emissions from the electric power sector rose by 6 percent compared to the previous year, but they were still 4 percent lower than 2019 levels. The sector's increase in emissions was due to a sharp rise in coal generation, which rose for the first time year-over-year since 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Rhodium Group said.
More than doubled natural gas price in 2021 compared to 2020 was the main driver of the jump in coal use for power generation in America last year, the research group added.
"The uptick in GHG emissions in 2021 moves the country even further from meeting its Paris Agreement climate target of reducing emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030," Rhodium Group said in the report.
"In 2020, due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions fell to 22.2% below 2005 levels. In 2021, US emissions ticked up to 17.4% below 2005 levels," it added.
"We really need to escalate annual emissions reductions; we can't have any more years of emissions growth," Kate Larsen, a partner at Rhodium Group and a co-author of the report, told CNN.