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Greenhouse gas emissions continue to fall in N.C., report finds

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to fall in N.C., report finds File photo

Net emissions of greenhouse gases have fallen 38% between 2005 and 2020 in North Carolina, according to the latest update of the N.C. Greenhouse Gas Inventory. 

The inventory, released last week by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, contains detailed estimates of greenhouse gas emissions in key source categories from 1990 to 2020, the most recent year for which historical data are consistently available. It also projects emissions through 2050.

The report concluded that greenhouse gas emissions fell 28% between 2005 and 2020, or 38% if accounting for carbon sequestered within the state to offset that output. During the same timeframe, the Gross State Product grew by 20% and 23%, respectively.

The transportation sector continues to have the largest carbon footprint, accounting for 36% of gross emissions in 2020. Meanwhile, emissions from electricity generation and use are nearly half what they were in 2005, representing the largest greenhouse gas emission decline. Forests, natural lands and agricultural lands sequestered an estimated 34% of the state’s gross emissions in 2020, a much higher amount than previously reported.

While emissions fell drastically in 2020 compared to levels prior to the pandemic, the data projected that 2021 emissions, while higher than 2020, remained below 2019 levels. By 2050, North Carolina is projected to see a 48% to 64% decrease in gross and net emissions, respectively, compared to 2005. This projection does not include all reductions that can be expected due to the lack of methods/data for modeling the impacts of the most recently enacted policies and federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

The report updates a previous inventory released in 2022 and can be used by policymakers and planners to understand greenhouse gas emissions in North Carolina and as a baseline to evaluate and develop mitigation options. The full report is available at deq.nc.gov/ghginventory.

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