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All Hands on Deck to Decarbonize the American Grid

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that there are few things in life you can depend on. 

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Americans heard climate promises that ran the gamut. We were promised a 21st century civilian conservation corps, investment in clean jobs, the end of fracking, the Green New Deal, you name it. But no matter what, Americans were assured that on Day One, the United States would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Now, a country once again pledged to climate relief, we must learn to decarbonize the American grid.

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

On December 12, 2015, the United States joined 194 countries and the European Union in Paris, France, to commit to limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees” Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. This binding agreement allows countries to set their own emissions reduction goals, with the objective to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible. Countries are given the flexibility to reassess their emission reductions goal every five years. It was the first time world leaders signed on to a binding agreement focused on addressing climate change since the Kyoto Protocols were adopted in 1997. 

When the U.S. signed on to the agreement in 2015, we pledged to reduce emissions by 26%-28% by 2025. However, in 2017 President Trump announced a plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and the U.S. formally withdrew on November 4, 2020. That means that the U.S. is nowhere near close to reaching our initial emissions reductions goals. Meanwhile, the U.S. experienced 22 different billion-dollar natural disasters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. also had previously pledged to contribute billions of dollars to a global fund aimed at helping poorer countries, who emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere but experience the bulk of adverse effects from global warming, to become more resilient. That money has since been withdrawn, undermining the larger global community effort

President Biden is moving on Day One of his administration re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement. In the aftermath of the past four years of climate inaction, rejoining the Paris Agreement must be seen as the bare minimum, not the height, of American climate action. 

Is the Rest of the World Keeping Up? 

Ahead of the COP26 climate summit in November 2021, countries of all sizes are releasing their updated pledges to achieve the 2 degrees Celsius goal, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). While these pledges will be important to put pressure on peer nations to increase their climate ambitions, according to the 2021 Climate Change Performance Index, “no country is doing enough to keep global temperature rise well below” 2 degrees Celsius, which is the bare minimum for avoiding the worst effects of climate change.  

As the United States re-enters the Paris Agreement this year and releases its own NDC, it’s clear we must go above and beyond our initial reduction targets if we’re going to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis. In order to achieve these goals, the private sector needs to continue to step up to act on climate.

We Can’t Go Back to Business as Usual

Despite our setbacks in our fight to reduce emissions, President Biden has set ambitious goals to get us back on track. This includes a pledge to decarbonize the grid by 2035, a goal that would tackle one of the largest contributors of our nation’s carbon footprint and cut over a quarter of total U.S. emissions. At Clearloop, we believe the private sector has the power to not only help the U.S. reach this goal, but accelerate the transformation of our entire energy system.

Over the last four years, corporations have gotten used to taking up the mantle of climate leadership when the federal government failed to act. The Climate Pledge, a commitment signed by some of the top companies in the U.S. was created in response to America’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Those pledges have real world consequences: in 2019, the Solar Energy Industries Association reported that corporate demand for solar power led to a surge in new solar installations, and corporate renewable energy procurement increased 45 percent in 2020.   

This leadership from companies big and small is critical to America’s success in cleaning up its own carbon footprint and finally decarbonizing the electricity grid. Companies that have taken action on climate need to double down on that commitment- not return to business as usual- now that the U.S. is ready to reassert its role as a climate action leader.  

All Hands on Deck

While these big corporate announcements may dominate the news, we can’t get complacent about the reality we’re facing: in 2020, only 8% of all energy generated in the United States came from renewables, with only 2% coming from solar power. We have a long way to go to achieve an electric grid powered by 100% clean energy, and we’re going to need all hands on deck to get there. 

That’s why it’s so important that companies of all sizes help us expand access to clean energy by  building solar infrastructure in communities that are getting left behind. In 2021, we must innovate beyond the current PPA structure to allow small and medium-sized companies to clean up our grid. Companies are looking for ways to demonstrate to employees, stakeholders, and consumers that they are ready to act on climate. In 2021, take climate action by helping the U.S. achieve its ambitious energy goals. 

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Want to learn more about how your company can reclaim your carbon footprint and expand access to clean energy with Clearloop? Drop us a note at hello@clearloop.us or contact us here.

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