Improved energy efficiency can make a big contribution to U.S. efforts toward dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The report, “Halfway There: Energy Efficiency Can Cut Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Half by 2050,” determined that major energy savings could be attained by a combination of measures, including moving to electric vehicles, strategically managing industrial energy use and decarbonization, improving aviation efficiency, upgrading existing commercial buildings and homes, better designing new buildings, and improving appliance efficiency.

ACEEE’s analysts also note the role that collective individual action can play in improving energy efficiency and reducing the threat of climate change. By creating greater demand for energy-efficient cars, appliances and well-insulated homes, consumers can push industry to develop new, more innovative green technology.                                                                                      

According to the 63-page report, “if pursued aggressively” energy efficiency can reduce energy-related carbon emissions in the U.S. in 2050 by as much as 57% relative to current projections. This could put the country a lot closer to the goals of the White House’s 2016 strategy for deep decarbonization, which aims for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2050.

In coordination with other efforts to cut emissions, energy efficiency has huge implications for lowering U.S. contributions to global climate change. But this does not have to be the sole reason for such change. ACEEE also estimates dramatic reductions in energy use will save US$700 billion by 2050’s economic standards.

There are multiple paths to reach these projections, but a widely accessible option is updating buildings and equipment to ENERGY STAR standards. Though U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulations have been relaxed in recent months, ACEEE holds hope that stricter energy standards will be implemented in the future, with long-term potential for significantly influencing energy efficiency.

Though the report mentions that the incorporated models based on policy analysis are dependent on “rapid model energy code improvements, quick adoption across the country, and effective compliance,” these ambitions still represent the range of what is attainable.

Similar to many other environmental issues, however, the problem of energy efficiency requires large-scale change on a governmental and industrial level. These changes — in almost all realms — stem from investment and federal legislation. By investing in more energy efficient industries, setting in place appropriate government standards and contributing individually to the energy efficiency cause, the U.S. can win half the battle toward achieving its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals.