US energy system transitions under cumulative emissions budgets

Felipe Feijoo, Gokul Iyer, Matthew Binsted, James Edmonds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Cumulative emissions budgets are increasingly being used by decision-makers and analysts to understand emissions reductions and associated transitions in the context of long-term goals such as limiting global mean temperature increase over the century to 1.5 or 2 °C. While previous studies have explored the implications of such budgets for the global economy, few studies have conducted regional- and national-level analyses. This paper explores budgets through 2050 consistent with the 1.5 and 2 °C long-term temperature goals in the context of the USA. We employ a state-level model of the USA embedded within a global human-Earth system model (GCAM-USA) to study the implications of such budgets for the US energy system. Our results show that achieving the stringent budgets entails accelerated deployment of energy conserving technology, almost complete decarbonization of the power sector, increased electrification of buildings and industrial end-use sectors, and decarbonization of transport employing a combination of electrification and the substitution of fossil fuels for bioenergy. We also find substantial state-level differences in the relative roles of these decarbonization strategies. Furthermore, our results highlight that increased ambition in the near term will be valuable in setting the stage for smoother transformations in the future to achieve stringent budgets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1947-1963
Number of pages17
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Cumulative emissions budget
  • Deep decarbonization
  • Global Change Assessment Model
  • Nationally determined contribution


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