Climate Indicators

Sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in Massachusetts are diverse and distributed throughout our economy, with 90% of the Commonwealth’s GHG emissions stemming from transportation, electricity use, and buildings.

In 2015, gasoline and diesel fuel burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation released 39% of the Commonwealth’s GHG pollution. The fuel used to heat commercial buildings and homes and for industrial processes released 38%. The coal, natural gas, and oil used to generate electricity emitted 21%, and the remaining 3% came from sources including agriculture, waste, wastewater, landfill gas, and highly warming chemicals for refrigeration and semiconductor manufacturing.

State policies are shifting our energy generation away from high carbon-intensity fuels like coal and making it easier to develop renewable energy sources. However, the vast majority of the Commonwealth’s emissions come from everyday activities of our residents, and - whether it’s taking the T one day instead of driving or switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs – everyday actions can have a real impact. State policy also targets these everyday decisions with programs that make it less expensive up-front to replace an old, inefficient home heating system or to purchase an electric vehicle – among many others!

Largest Greenhouse Gas Sources in Massachusetts

Largest Greenhouse Gas Sources in Massachusetts

Source: Facility submittals to MassDEP all summarized here .

Electricity and waste to energy facilities are the largest individual emission sources. In Massachusetts, and across the northeast, the larger power plants are regulated under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Since RGGI was enacted in 2009, both electric sector GHGs and wholesale prices have declined about 30%. The decline was principally caused by reduced generation from oil and coal, and increased generation from natural gas, renewables, and nuclear, as well as by energy efficiency. Text version of the above graphic 

Massachusetts Renewable Energy Net Generation is Rising

Renewable energy is considered by many to be the best option to replace carbon rich energy sources. This graph illustrates total renewable energy generation since 2003 to comply with the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard. Most of this energy comes from wind and landfill gas. Solar is the next largest contributor, and is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the Commonwealth. Text version of the below graph



GHG Emissions from Building Fuel Use

Total GHG emissions from building fuel use - primarily space and water heating - have fallen gradually in recent decades, driven principally by energy efficiency measures and fuel switching from oil to less carbon intensive natural gas heating systems. Some variation due to weather conditions is expected. In 2015, GHG emission from residential heating needs totaled slightly over 14 MMTCO2e, or approximately 18% of the Commonwealth’s total. Text version of the below graph


Travel on Massachusetts Highways

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) has grown steadily for the last few decades.  Economic recessions or growth, fluctuating gas prices, better communications technology, changes in consumer transportation preference, and other factors affect VMT in any given year. The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the Commonwealth. Reducing VMTs or increasing fuel-efficient vehicles – including the growth of electric vehicles – is critically important to reducing our state’s carbon footprint. Text version of the below graph


Transportation Sector Fuel Consumption

Ninety-two percent of the state’s transportation energy comes from petroleum, which is largely gasoline and diesel. The remaining 8% comes from blended ethanol. As electric vehicles (EVs) enter the market, more electricity is being used as a transportation fuel, although the amount of electricity used to power EVs currently is a small percentage of the transportation sector. Text version of the below graph

State Mass Transit Ridership Slowly Rising

Providing high quality transit is one of the most effective existing strategies for reducing emissions from the transportation sector by reducing VMT. As this chart demonstrates, the overwhelming majority of transit riders in the state use the MBTA. Transit ridership figures for the MBTA and the Regional Transportation Authorities have followed an overall upward trend over the past twenty years. Text version of the below graph


Walk Score of Massachusetts Communities

Increasing the walkability of neighborhoods reduces the need for a car and in turn reduces emissions from the transportation sector. 72 of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns are each ranked with a Walk Score. In 2013, approximately 65% of these communities (representing 42% of the scored population) were “car-dependent,” while less than 10% of these communities (representing 26% of the scored population) were “very walkable.” Since then, the number of communities scored as car-dependent has fallen to 58% and the total population in “somewhat  walkable” or ”very walkable” has increased by 4% statewide. If the Commonwealth’s Smart Growth, GreenDOT, Housing Choice Initiative, and other policies are effective in encouraging compact mixed-use growth, the population and community distribution may continue to shift to higher scores over time.  This could be accomplished through more growth in existing urban centers and gradual changes to single use suburbs that enable walking and other alternatives to car travel. Text version of the below graph


Massachusetts is Producing More Clean Energy Jobs

Despite a recent national economic recession, the Commonwealth’s clean energy industry continues to grow rapidly.  Surveys by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center shows that the clean energy industry grew 11.9% in 2015 and that there are now just under 100,000 employees working in clean energy throughout the Commonwealth. Since 2010, Massachusetts clean energy employment has grown by 64%, representing more than 38,000 new jobs, most of which pay more than $50,000 per year. Clean energy continues to maintain its place as one of our Commonwealth’s marquee industries with 3.3% of the total Massachusetts work force, and accounting for an $11 billion slice of the Commonwealth’s gross state product. Text version of the below graph