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Report: Carbon emissions declining in Georgia

Georgia’s carbon emissions are declining despite strong economic and population growth, according to a statewide research initiative begun in 2020 by a multi-university collaboaration.

Carbon emissions in the Peach State fell by 5% between 2017 and 2021, researchers from Drawdown Georgia reported this week. Put another way, the carbon footprint of Georgia’s “average” citizen has declined 8% from 22,092 to 20,253 pounds.

“Based on the collaborations we’re a part of, we’re confident this is only the beginning of Georgia’s carbon reduction trend,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, a primary funding resource for Drawdown Georgia. A large part of the decline in carbon emissions is coming from the electricity sector, with Georgia power plant emissions falling by 15% between 2017 and 2021. The state’s utilities have moved away from coal in recent years in favor of natural gas and large-scale solar energy due to a combination of federal regulatory actions and public pressure. The carbon footprint of offices and businesses has decreased due to changes in working patterns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report found. Conversely, emissions due to use of electricity by residential customers has increases as many Georgians now work from home for at least part of the work week.

Transportation-related carbon emissions accounted for nearly 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, up 4% from 2017. Nearly all of that increase was driven by higher emissions from diesel-fueled medium and heavyduty trucks caused by the pandemic-driven boom in online retailing.

Marilyn Brown, a professor in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech, said the report shows a mixed bag of encouraging and concerning news.

“While some numbers are trending in the right direction, our data analysis also tells us that segments of our economy have an expanding carbon footprint,” Brown said. “This helps us understand how to focus climate solutions work in Georgia where it is most needed.”

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