Overall rating

Policies and action
against modelled domestic pathways

< 3°C World

NDC target
against modelled domestic pathways

Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World

NDC target
against fair share

< 3°C World
Climate finance
Critically insufficient
Net zero target



Comprehensiveness rated as

Land use & forestry
Not significant

Target overview

In its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the US has set a target of reducing emissions by 50%–52% below 2005 levels by 2030 (U.S. Government, 2021). This target covers all sectors and all greenhouse gases (GHGs). The CAT assessment excludes emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) from this target, resulting in a 44%–49% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. The CAT rates the US domestic target as “Almost sufficient” compared to the reductions needed within its borders and as “Insufficient” when compared to its fair share contribution.

The US submitted a long-term strategy (LTS) to the UNFCCC in November 2021, officially committing to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest (U.S. Department of State, 2021).

USA — Main climate targets
2030 NDC target
Formulation of target in NDC 50–52% below 2005 levels by 2030 (incl. LULUCF)
Absolute emissions level in 2030 
excl. LULUCF
Level of emissions to be achieved at home (domestic target)
3,805–4,148 MtCO2e
[36%–41% below 1990 by 2030]
[41%–46% below 2010 by 2030]
Status Submitted on 22 April 2021
Net zero & other long-term targets
Formulation of target Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050.
Absolute emissions level in 2050 excl. LULUCF 558–1,540 MtCO2e
[91%–100% below 1990 by 2030]
[92%–100% below 2010 by 2030]
Status Submitted on 1 November 2021

NDC Updates

The US submitted its stronger, current NDC target on 22 April 2021.

President Biden moved to re-join the Paris Agreement on his first day in office in 2021. In line with its re-joining, the US submitted a strengthened NDC, committing to reducing emissions by 50%–52% below 2005 levels by 2030, including LULUCF.

The CAT estimates that the target would translate to a range of 3,805–4,148 MtCO2e absolute GHG emissions in 2030 excluding LULUCF (or 44%–49% below 2005 levels), depending on whether the sink from LULUCF is at the high or low end of the projections (U.S. Department of State, 2022).

The current NDC target represents major progress beyond the Obama-era target of 26%–28% below 2005 levels by 2025, but is not quite enough to bring US domestic emissions in line with what would be needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.

CAT analysis indicates that the US should aim to reduce its national emissions by at least 58% below 2005 levels by 2030 (incl. LULUCF) and provide support to other countries in order to be consistent with the Paris Agreement 1.5°C limit and put the US on track to achieve President Biden’s stated 2050 net zero target (Climate Action Tracker, 2021b). The US has not submitted a further NDC update in response to the mandate under the Glasgow Climate Pact to revisit and strengthen NDCs.

USA — History of NDC updates 2016 NDC 2021 NDC Update
1.5°C compatible

Stronger target N/A
Fixed/absolute target

USA 2016 NDC 2021 NDC Update
Formulation of target in NDC 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2025 (incl. LULUCF) 50–52% below 2005 levels by 2030 (incl. LULUCF)
Absolute emissions level
excl. LULUCF
5,474–5,713 MtCO2e in 2025 3,805–4,148 MtCO2e in 2030
Emissions compared to 1990 and 2010
excl. LULUCF
11%–15% below 1990 by 2025
19%–22% below 2010 by 2025
36%–41% below 1990 by 2030
41%–46% below 2010 by 2030
CAT rating Critically insufficient* NDC target against modelled domestic pathways:
Almost sufficient

NDC target against fair share:
Sector coverage Economy-wide Economy-wide
Separate target for LULUCF No No
Gas coverage All greenhouse gases All greenhouse gases
Target type Absolute emissions reduction below a base year Absolute emissions reduction below a base year

* The ‘Critically insufficient’ rating was based on the fact that the US had withdrawn from the Paris Agreement and was not an assessment of the NDC emissions level, which itself would fall in the ‘Insufficient range’ based on the CAT’s prior rating system (which was updated in September 2021).

CAT rating of targets

The CAT rates NDC targets against what a country should be doing within its own borders as well as what a fair contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal would be. For assessing targets against the fair share, we consider both a country’s domestic emission reductions and any emissions it supports abroad through the use of market mechanisms or other ways of support, as relevant.

The US does not intend to use market mechanisms and will achieve its NDC target through to domestic action alone. We rate its NDC target against both domestic and fairness metrics.

NDC target
against modelled domestic pathways

Almost Sufficient

We rate the target of reducing emissions by 50%–52% (or 44%–49% excluding emissions from land-use, land-use change and forestry) below 2005 levels by 2030 as “Almost sufficient” when compared to modelled domestic emissions pathways.

The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that the US target in 2030 is not yet consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit but could be, with moderate improvements. If all countries were to follow the US approach, warming could be held at—but not well below—2°C. Although the target represents a significant improvement compared to its first NDC, the current US target is not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C, and needs further improvements.

NDC target
against fair share


We rate the target of reducing emissions by 50%–52% (or 44%–49% excluding emissions from land-use, land-use change and forestry) below 2005 levels by 2030 as “Insufficient” when compared with its fair-share emissions allocation.

The “Insufficient” rating indicates that US’ NDC target in 2030 needs substantial improvements to be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. US’ target is at the least stringent end of what would be a fair share of global effort, and is not consistent with the 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. If all countries were to follow US’ approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C.

The US’s international climate finance is rated “Critically insufficient” (see below) and is not enough to improve the US’s fair share rating.

Climate finance
Critically insufficient

We rate the US international public climate finance contributions as “Critically insufficient.” The US has committed to increase its climate finance, but contributions to date have been very low compared to its fair share. To improve its rating, the US needs to ramp up the level of its international climate finance contributions and accelerate the phase-out of all fossil finance abroad (not only coal).

Contribution levels and trends

In March 2022, the US Congress approved the budget allocation for FY2023, which includes USD 1bn for international climate finance. This finance provision, which is slightly higher than the Trump administration’s spending, does not represent an increase to what was approved in the first year of the Biden administration for FY2022 (Donor Tracker, 2021). It is also well below the USD 11bn initially requested in President Biden’s 2023 budget plan and his pledge of USD 11.4bn/year by 2024. Notably, the bill does not include any funding for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for the second year in a row. The GCF is the primary international vehicle for supporting developing countries in their efforts to respond to and build resilience to the climate crisis (DeLauro, 2022).

In September 2021, President Biden committed to quadruple annual public climate finance overseas to USD 11.4bn a year by 2024 (relative to the average level during President Obama’s term). This announcement built on an April 2021 commitment to double annual public climate finance overseas by 2024 (UK Government & UNFCCC, 2021).

The commitment of USD 11.4bn a year by 2024 falls short of the US’ fair contribution and is not enough to close the gap to mobilise international climate finance towards the USD 100bn goal per year. The USD 100bn global goal is insufficient post-2020. The US would need to substantially scale up its international climate finance provisions in the following years to meet the climate finance targets and regain its credibility as world climate leader. This level of finance, if achieved by a sustained upwards trend in annual contributions, would improve the CAT finance rating.

For FY2024, President Biden requested around USD 5.7bn in direct and indirect climate finance. This includes a USD 1.6bn contribution to the GCF and USD 1.2bn loan to Clean Technology Fund (CTF). However, the budget plan represents an initial proposal and is expected to be scaled back in negotiations with Congress before it gets enacted, following the pattern of previous years (Congressional Research Service, 2023; The White House, 2023a).

The US has historically provided a significant portion of its climate-related financial contributions as grants, which are more concessional than loans. Although climate finance contributions declined during the Trump administration, the Biden administration reversed this trend, achieving a small increase in bilateral climate-related Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2021 (OECD, 2022).

Nonetheless, the US's allocation of funding to bilateral climate-related ODA has been consistently low at around 3% of total ODA spending, in sharp contrast to the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries' average of 24% (Donor Tracker, 2023). This highlights a substantial gap in the US's financial commitment to addressing climate change through ODA, and increasing these contributions would not only allow the US to play a larger role in global climate action but also align with its renewed commitment to international cooperation under the Biden administration.

Fossil fuel financing abroad

The US, along with several other countries, agreed to “end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector” by the end of 2022 (The White House, 2021a). The 2023 G7 Communique claims to have achieved this goal (The White House, 2023d). However, the US has not developed plans nor public finance policies to implement these commitments.

Contradictory to these claims, in May 2023 the Export-Import Bank of the US, an independent US government agency that provides concessions for projects that could boost US exports, lent USD 100mn to Indonesia’s national oil company to expand an oil refinery and boost production.

The agency is considering financing further fossil fuel projects abroad, including oil and gas field development in Mexico and Bahrain (Copley, 2023). Additionally, the US continues to support existing fossil fuel projects abroad, such as the Jawa 9-10 Suralaya Coal Plant in Banten in Indonesia and the Long Phu 1 Coal Plant in Vietnam (EndCoal, 2020). The US should stop supporting all fossil fuel developments abroad to improve its climate finance rating.

Net zero and other long-term target(s)

The Biden administration submitted an updated long-term strategy to the UNFCCC in November 2021, officially committing the US to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. The net zero target covers all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, makes transparent assumptions on CO2 removal by nature-based and technology-based solutions, and specifies several key components for comprehensive planning (U.S. Department of State, 2021).

The US government has several avenues to improve the scope, target architecture and transparency of its net zero target. The US government could include international aviation and shipping in its target coverage, and explicitly commit to reach net zero emissions within its own borders without any use of international offsets.

The target itself could be enshrined in law in combination with adopting a legally-binding review, revision, and reporting mechanism. The US government should further explain why its net zero target is a fair contribution to the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, and transparently address any existing gap between its net zero target and what would be a fair target.

For the full analysis, click here.

2020 pledge

The effects of COVID-19 induced a drop in emissions that helped the US to meet its 2020 targets under the Copenhagen Accord. Total emissions in 2020 decreased by 22% below 2005 as a result of the economic slowdown. The US 2020 target was to reduce emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (U.S. Department of State, 2010). Despite reaching the 2020 target, GHG emissions bounced back in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels.

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