The world must keep the rise in global temperatures below at least 2 degrees Celsius—and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius—to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Deep decarbonization is a must—it won’t be easy, but it is achievable.
To meet the temperature targets set by the Paris Agreement, the world economy needs to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through an energy transition. Every aspect of the global economy—agriculture, construction, heavy industry, finance, transportation, the electric grid itself, and more—must transform to reduce emissions while capturing and storing as much carbon as possible.
In the United States, market trends and recent legislation—mostly notably the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2022—provide strong policy momentum for this energy transition. US net-zero goals are also technically feasible since the types of technologies needed to decarbonize emissions-intensive sectors are either known or in development.
Through the Energy Pathways USA project, the Nicholas Institute and public- and private-sector partners across multiple industries are tackling the challenge head on by exploring ways to accelerate progress toward a sustainable, net-zero future for the United States.
Other relevant Nicholas Institute efforts include initiatives to advance transportation electrification and offshore wind development in the US Southeast and innovative research to direct financing to low- and middle-income countries for access to clean energy.