When it comes to the global shift to low-carbon energy sources, Europe has traditionally been viewed as the world leader. Meanwhile, the United States has frequently been regarded as an important—albeit grudging—participant. Over the past half-decade, China has also improved its stock in the fast-growing market through a plethora of heavy investments, especially in solar and wind.
For the most part, those views appear merited: Renewables rose to generate 38% of Europe’s electricity in 2020 (compared to 34.6% in 2019), marking the first time renewables overtook fossil-fired generation, which fell to 37%. In contrast, the IEA estimates that natural gas and coal generated a combined 61% of electricity in the United States in 2020, with renewables accounting for just 20%.
And the country’s standing in the energy transition became even murkier after former president Donald Trump fulfilled a key campaign pledge by withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, joining the likes of Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not a party to the agreement.