Net emissions of greenhouse gases have fallen 38% between 2005 and 2020 in North Carolina, according to the latest update of the state Greenhouse Gas Inventory, released today by the Department of Environmental Quality.
The inventory contains detailed estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in key source categories from 1990 to 2020, the most recent year for which historical data are consistently available. This update also projects GHG emissions through 2050 for the first time.
Key takeaways in the updated inventory:
- Between 2005 and 2020, North Carolina reduced gross GHG emissions by approximately 28% and net GHG emissions (which accounts for all carbon sequestered in the state) by 38%. During this same time, population and real Gross State Product grew by 20% and 23%, respectively.
- The largest contributor to the state’s carbon footprint continues to be the transportation sector, which in 2020 accounted for 36% of the state’s gross emissions. Emissions from the electricity generation and use sector are nearly half of what they were in 2005 and represent the largest GHG emission declines in the inventory.
- By 2050, North Carolina is projected to see a 48% and 64% decrease in gross and net GHG emissions, respectively, relative to 2005 emissions. These additional reductions reflect projected trends across all sectors, including the reductions required in the electricity generation sector under Session Law 2021-165 (House Bill 951). The inventory’s emission projections do 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 the historic federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
- North Carolina saw large decreases in GHG emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While 2021 emissions are projected to have rebounded, they are estimated to have remained below 2019 levels.
- Forests, natural lands, and agricultural lands sequestered an estimated 34% of the state’s gross GHG emissions in 2020, a much higher amount that reported previously.
The 2024 North Carolina Greenhouse Gas Inventory is an update to the previous inventory released in 2022. For this inventory, DEQ staff updated emissions estimates for all sectors and significantly refined inventory methods for most sectors. These updates include incorporation of newly available data and EPA methodologies.
The inventory can be used by policymakers and planners to understand past, current and expected future GHG emissions in North Carolina. It can also be used as a baseline to evaluate and develop GHG mitigation options for our state and predict their effect on reducing emissions in future years. This inventory update also supports North Carolina’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program to identify and prioritize actions to mitigate GHG emissions and sequester carbon.
The state GHG inventory is available online at https://deq.nc.gov/GHGinventory.