Washington state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 reached their highest levels since 2007, but early data suggests the pandemic may have helped lower those levels in 2020, according to the latest analysis from state officials.
Washington emissions in 2019 penciled out to 102.1 million metric tons – about a 7% increase from 2018 and more than 9% higher than emission targets set by the state Legislature for 2020.
The significant increase largely stems from a higher reliance on fossil fuels – mainly coal and natural gas – for electricity because of poor hydropower performance, according to the state Department of Ecology.
The electricity sector’s emissions rose from 16.5 million metric tons in 2018 to 21.9 million metric tons in 2019.
Washington state greenhouse gas emissions have been slowly climbing since 2012. Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other sources are causing long-term global warming that scientists say will trigger more intense droughts, storms, flooding and impact water resources.
State officials say 2019 is an “inflection point” in the state’s emissions. Early data shows 2020 emissions in the energy sector fell 35%. That’s about 16% under the 1990 levels for the sector.
The new data comes just days before two policies aimed at reducing emissions in the state take effect. Both the cap-and-invest program and the Clean Fuel Standard begin Jan. 1.
Under the cap-and-invest program, each share of greenhouse gas emissions bought and sold in Washington’s carbon market will soon cost between $22 and $81, the state announced this month.
And the clean fuel standard will require fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity of their products 20% by 2034. It’s expected to cut statewide emissions by 4.3 million metric tons a year.