Want to know which sector contributes the most greenhouse emissions to the state's environment? The North Carolina Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory prepared by the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) provides a snapshot of the state’s carbon footprint. According to the Jan 31, 2022 report, transportation has taken the top spot from electricity and now accounts for 36% of the state’s gross GHG emissions.
The report is a high-level perspective of GHG emissions resulting from human activity. It tracks changes in emissions between 1990 and 2018 and includes projections through 2030 based on forecasted changes in fuel use, population and historical trends. As as with most environmental overviews, there is some good news and bad news.
Here are the report’s key takeaways:
The overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions increased from about 150 million metric tons in 2017 to about 160 million metric tons in 2018.
North Carolina’s population and real Gross State Product grew by 19% and 24%, respectively between 2005 and 2018. But the state reduced gross GHG emissions by 16% and net GHG emissions by 23%.
By 2030, net GHG emissions are forecast to decrease by 39% compared to 2005. The inventory’s emission projections do not include all reductions expected as a result of policies enacted after 2020 by House Bill 951.
The Transportation sector accounts for 36% of the state’s gross GHG emissions and is projected to decrease emissions at a much lower rate compared to the projected decrease in electricity generation emissions by 2030. The transportation projections do not include reductions expected as a result of policies enacted after 2020.
Forests, natural lands and agricultural lands sequestered an estimated 26% of the state’s gross GHG emissions in 2018.
As the energy industry continues its gradual shift away from coal-fired power plants and toward cleaner-burning natural gas, GHG emissions from the energy sector are down 31% since 2005. While energy emissions declined 2.3% from 2017 to 2018, GHGs from the transportation sector increased 3.4% during that period. Industry, agriculture, waste, commercial also saw slight declines (.01%, .04%, .02% and .05%, respectively) and home emissions remained the same.
“The updated inventory shows that North Carolina is making progress and our efforts to cut greenhouse emissions are paying off,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser in a media release. “It also highlights the need for continued focus on the transportation sector to meet our climate goals.”
As Biser diplomatically points out, clean energy transformation simply isn’t happening quickly enough in the transportation sector. In a state with 8.8 million registered vehicles, only 25,000 are electric. If we are to reach the net zero goal of GHG emissions Gov Cooper set, we need to add at least 150,000 new EVs to North Carolina roadways each year for the next eight years.
State regulators say the inventory is a valuable tool to help environmental planners and energy policy makers understand past, current and expected future GHG emissions in the state and help evaluate and develop GHG mitigation options for our State and predict their effect on reducing emissions in future years.