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Why the U.S. lags behind Europe on climate change goals ‘by 10 or 15 years’

Why the U.S. lags behind Europe on climate change goals 'by 10 or 15 years'

BARCELONA — On Wednesday, the Biden administration unveiled a bold new blueprint showing how solar energy, which currently provides 2.3 percent of electricity in the U.S., could be ramped up to kick in 45 percent of electrical needs by 2050.

In Europe, however, the announcement — while lauded as a move in the right direction — was viewed as less than earthshaking. Across the 27-country European Union, solar already generates 13 percent of electricity — and massive projects from Spain to Germany to Denmark are soon going online. In fact, the U.S. finds itself playing catch-up with the EU in the race to meet the goal of carbon neutrality laid out in the Paris climate accord.

In the U.S., for instance, all sources of renewable energy generate just 20 percent of the country’s electricity. In Europe, they already supply nearly 40 percent. And while greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. have risen 2 percent from 1990, according to the EPA, Europe has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent over that same period, and is well on its way to slashing them 55 percent by 2030.

Given American technological prowess, why is the EU racing ahead of the U.S. in switching from fossil fuels to renewable energies and in reducing emissions, leading the world in its goal of being 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2050? According to European energy experts, it boils down to three factors: attitudes about climate change, consistent long-term commitment and Greta Thunberg.

“To be blunt, the debate Americans are having on the federal energy policy reminds me of the debate we were having in the EU in 2007,” said Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, director of the Jacques Delors Energy Centre in Paris. “The U.S. is lagging behind the EU by 10 or 15 years.”
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