Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are produced when we use energy in our homes and offices, dispose of waste or sewage, and use vehicles. GHGs trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to lasting disruptions in our climate, such as higher temperatures, sea level rise, and more frequent extreme weather events that can cause flooding. Cambridge, along with many other cities, organizations, and businesses, both nationally and internationally, has committed to significantly reduce GHG emissions by 2050 to avoid severe impacts from climate change.

City buildings lit up at night

Community GHG Emissions

Our Goals

Cambridge has established a goal to have net-zero GHG emissions community-wide by 2050.

The City's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory for 2012 will serve as a baseline for measuring progress on our emissions reduction goals.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) have a natural heat trapping capacity which varies by gas. Humans produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) than any other GHG. We count emissions of GHGs based on how each GHG’s heat trapping capacity compares to CO2s. This is called the "CO2 equivalent" (CO2e). We measure GHGs in metric tons of CO2e (MTCO2e).
MTCO2eMetric Tons Carbon Dioxide Equivalent

Community GHG Emissions

2012 Community GHG Emissions by Sector

As with municipal GHG emissions, buildings are the largest sector of community GHG emissions, with commercial and institutional buildings accounting for more than half of all community emissions. This is followed by residential buildings and then energy industries, which are the generation facilities that provide electricity and heat for the commercial and institutional properties. On-road transportation, which includes all the cars, trucks, and buses that travel on our streets, represents 10.5% of the City’s GHG emissions.

Image of buildings on a tree-lined street on front cover of City plan document

How Does Cambridge Track Municipal Emissions?

Cambridge has reduced its GHG emissions by 36% between 2008 and 2019 by decreasing energy use, switching to cleaner fuels, and reducing waste.

Learn more about Cambridge's Municipal GHG Emissions Inventory

Municipal GHG Emissions

2019 Emissions by Sector

We look at GHG emissions by sector to determine the amount of emissions produced by each sector and identify opportunities for reductions. Similar to the energy use profile, the City’s buildings are the largest source of emissions at 67%.

Municipal GHG Emissions

2019 Emissions By Fuel Type

Electricity and natural gas are the two primary fuel types that cause greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our municipal operations. This is not surprising given that the buildings sector is our number one emitter. 

This pie chart also shows us where there are opportunities to improve. The City has learned a lot about how to be more efficient in our buildings and to integrate renewable energy into our facilities - demonstrated by the 32% reduction that has already been achieved.

Overhead image of cars parked in a parking lot

Did You Know?

Cambridge's 2019 GHG emissions from municipal operations are equivalent to the GHG emissions from 3,968 passenger vehicles driving for one year.

Learn more about GHGs

How You Can Help

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Throughout our daily lives, we all take actions that produce GHGs. Here are some actions you can take to reduce your contribution to the community's emissions:

  1. Reduce your energy use at home or work. Buildings represent nearly two-thirds of community GHG emissions.
  2. Switch to renewable energy. Clean energy sources produce fewer GHGs than fossil fuels.
  3. Reduce your waste by recycling and composting. Solid waste and incineration accounts for 6.4% of community GHG emissions. 
  4. Prioritize low-carbon transportation. Cambridge residents have many options to get around without a vehicle.

Learn more about residential energy efficiency.

Video: Residential Energy Efficiency
Visit the City's website for information on renewable options.

Cambridge Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources
Learn what can go in your curbside recycling bins.

Video: Get Rid of It Right - Recycle
See how bike, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure can help you get to where you are going.

Check out our CitySmart page
Electric vehicles can emit up to 99% less pollutants than cars with internal combustion engines.

Check out the incentives that exist to buy or lease an EV!