11. SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES

DEQ’s Updated ‘Air Quality Trends in North Carolina’ Report Shows Air Pollution at Historic Lows

DEQ’s Updated ‘Air Quality Trends in North Carolina’ Report Shows Air Pollution at Historic Lows
Written by ZJbTFBGJ2T

DEQ’s Updated ‘Air Quality Trends in North Carolina’ Report Shows …  NC DEQ

DEQ’s Updated ‘Air Quality Trends in North Carolina’ Report Shows Air Pollution at Historic Lows

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Air Quality in North Carolina

Introduction

North Carolinians continue to breathe the cleanest air in decades as emissions of harmful air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter reach historic lows, according to the latest update of the “Air Quality Trends in North Carolina” report published by the N.C. Division of Air Quality.

Efforts Towards Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

The report, released today, attributes the decline of air pollution emissions to efforts by state leaders, regulatory agencies, electric utilities, industry, and the public to significantly address air quality concerns in recent years. This progress aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations to promote sustainable development worldwide.

Emissions Reduction and Progress

The report found that emissions of Criteria Air Pollutants, regulated under the federal Clean Air Act, have dropped precipitously statewide from 1990 through 2020. Specifically, emissions fell:

  • 94% for sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • 73% for carbon monoxide (CO)
  • 72% for oxides of nitrogen (NOx)
  • 49% for fine particulate matter (PM2.5)
  • 68% for volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Contributing Factors

A major source of these declines is electricity production. More of North Carolina’s power is coming from clean sources such as utility-scale solar development, and energy efficiency improvements in homes and buildings. The cars, trucks, and other vehicles on North Carolina highways also emit far less pollution than older vehicles, thanks to improved engine and fuel standards and more advanced emissions controls. From 1990 through 2020, CO, NOx, and VOC emissions have declined by 80%, 69%, and 84%, respectively, from these “on-road” sources of air pollution. The state expects to see further reductions from the transportation sector in the coming years due to the growing adoption of electric vehicles.

Impact on Public and Environmental Health

High concentrations of air pollutants can impact public and environmental health. Ground-level ozone (formed from VOCs and NOx) and particulate matter can worsen asthma and contribute to heart and lung conditions. Pollutants like SO2 are associated with haze and acid rain. Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, and various hazardous air pollutants are known carcinogens. North Carolina has seen reductions in emissions of each of these classes of pollutants.

Additional Findings

  • The number of ozone exceedance days statewide continues to be low. From 2013-2022, North Carolina recorded just one day of “Code Red” or above for ozone in the state, compared to 119 such days from 2003-2012.
  • Visibility in our national and state parks has improved markedly in the last 20 years, due to reductions in emissions of SO2, NOx, and other air pollutants that scatter light. For example, in 2021, visitors could see as far as 117 miles at Great Smoky Mountains National Park during an average clear day, compared to just 54 miles in 1996.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion have decreased by 21% from 2005 to 2018 due to both a shift in fuel use and increased energy efficiency. During this same period, North Carolina’s population and real Gross State Product grew by 19% and 24%, respectively.
  • Over the past 28 years, combined emissions of federally designated Hazardous Air Pollutants and state-designated Toxic Air Pollutants have fallen by more than 100 million pounds, a 79% drop.

Conclusion

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality regularly updates and publishes the “Air Quality Trends in North Carolina” report. This report is an update of the previous report published in October 2020. It includes updated data on air emissions and incorporates information from the latest update to the North Carolina Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

North Carolina has been in attainment with every federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard since August 2015.

SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?

  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 15: Life on Land

2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?

  • SDG 3.9: By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.
  • SDG 7.2: By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
  • SDG 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.
  • SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.
  • SDG 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services.

3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?

  • Indicator for SDG 3.9: Reduction in emissions of criteria air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds).
  • Indicator for SDG 7.2: Increase in the share of clean energy sources (utility scale solar development, energy efficiency improvements).
  • Indicator for SDG 11.6: Improvement in air quality (reduction in emissions of air pollutants).
  • Indicator for SDG 13.2: Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Indicator for SDG 15.1: Reduction in emissions of hazardous air pollutants and toxic air pollutants.

SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

SDGs Targets Indicators
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being 3.9: By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination. Reduction in emissions of criteria air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds).
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy 7.2: By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Increase in the share of clean energy sources (utility scale solar development, energy efficiency improvements).
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management. Improvement in air quality (reduction in emissions of air pollutants).
SDG 13: Climate Action 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
SDG 15: Life on Land 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services. Reduction in emissions of hazardous air pollutants and toxic air pollutants.

Behold! This splendid article springs forth from the wellspring of knowledge, shaped by a wondrous proprietary AI technology that delved into a vast ocean of data, illuminating the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Remember that all rights are reserved by SDG Investors LLC, empowering us to champion progress together.

Source: deq.nc.gov

 

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