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NEW YORK, NY: January 08, 2019. After three years of decline, US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose 3.4 percent last year, according to new research from the Rhodium Group.

The increase is the second largest since 1996 and is only surpassed by the 3.6 percent rise in 2010 when emissions rebounded from a recession-driven 7.2 percent decline the year before.

US Dept. of TransportationTo meet the Paris Agreement target of a 26-28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, the US will have to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 2.6 percent on average over the next seven years — and faster if declines in other gasses don’t keep pace. Rhodium says this is more than twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history.

For the third year running, the US transportation sector was the largest source of emissions in 2018 as growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offset a modest decline in gasoline consumption.

During the first nine months of the year, gasoline demand declined by 0.1 percent as modest efficiency gains offset a minor increase in vehicle miles traveled. But growth in demand for both trucking and air travel increased demand for diesel and jet fuel by 3.1 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively.

The research company says this highlights the challenges in decarbonizing the transportation sector beyond light-duty vehicles where efficiency improvements and electrification are beginning to show improvements - “albeit not nearly a big enough one to meet medium- and long-term US emissions targets”.

Preliminary US fourth quarter data suggests an accelerated decline in gasoline demand, an uptick in diesel demand and moderation in jet fuel demand relative to the first nine months. “All told, we estimate that transportation emissions grew by one percent in 2018, roughly the same as the 2017 growth rate”.

Rhodium says the growth in US energy-related CO2 emissions last year has made it harder for the country to meet its Paris Agreement target. However, despite plans by individual US states to reduce CO2 levels, the decision by Donald Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement by 2020 ensures a federal response to climate change remains in limbo.

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