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Office of Carbon Emissions

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, Energy, and Sustainability

While energy fuels economic growth, most of the current energy conversion and consumption are accompanied by environmental impacts at local, regional, and global levels that threaten human well-being now and well into the future. Sustainable energy means energy produced and used in ways that support human development over the long-term, in all its social, economic, and environmental dimensions. Thus, this term does not refer simply to a continuing supply of energy, but to the production and use of energy resources in ways that are compatible with long-term human well-being and ecological balance. A key environmental consideration is energy’s link to global warming through greenhouse gases (generated mostly by fossil fuel consumption). This was first recognized globally with the adoption in 1992 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and re-affirmed recently (2015) by the Paris Agreement of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC. Climate change is certainly not the only environmental sustainability challenge. However, its magnitude and complexity make it a case at the center of the paradigm.

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. These include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride).

What’s New? Paris Climate Agreement, December 2015

In what could be a turning point, the world’s nations reached an agreement in Paris that would commit them to cutting emissions and keeping global warming below 2 degrees. Although the pledges are not binding, the deal includes a review process to determine if countries are meeting their commitments. 

Goal: The agreement lowers the maximum global warming the world should allow, from 20C (3.60F) above pre-industrial levels to “well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F). Holding warming to 1.5°C might slow sea level rise and prevent the loss of south Florida, New Orleans, London, the Netherlands, Shanghai and island nations such as Tuvalu. The lower limit recognizes there is no safe level of warming: the higher the global average temperature, the greater the harms and risks. The Earth has already warmed about 1°C (1.8°F) since the Industrial Revolution. That warming may have already triggered the irreversible loss of Antarctic glaciers that will add more than three feet to long-run sea level rise, on top of melting in Greenland and around the world. Worse, the 1.5°C goal was not accompanied by stronger pledges for emissions reductions.

Emissions Reductions: The agreement maintains the voluntary system of pledges, known as "INDCs" (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions") under which each country submits its own goals and plan to limit its greenhouse gas emissions.

New Jersey enacted in 2007 the Global Warming Response Act (P.L. 2007, c.112) which addresses, among other things, the links between energy and carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. It includes as part of the implementation process the periodic inventory of GHG emissions. The State’s first inventory was issued in 2008 and several updates have been reported since then. The latest report is for 2012.

 

 

 

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Last Updated: April 28, 2016