Clark County residents, businesses and visitors generated more than 29 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) in 2019, according to the Regional Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. How does that figure stack up compared to other large, urban population centers? The City of Los Angeles emitted about 25 million MTCO2E in 2018. In 2017, the City of Chicago reported emitting approximately 31 million MTCO2E. For Clark County officials, the GHG inventory report provides a necessary baseline to begin taking steps to decrease pollutants contributing to climate change.
“Understanding the sources of greenhouse gas emissions is the first step in addressing climate change issues in Clark County,” said Marci Henson, director of Clark County’s Department of Environment and Sustainability. “This collaborative effort involved representation from all local governments as well as input from business, industry and nonprofits across the region. The data it provides will allow our working groups to find the best solutions to reducing GHGs, now and into the future.”
What are Greenhouse Gases?
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are naturally occurring compounds (such as carbon dioxide and methane) that provide a “blanket” in the atmosphere, trapping heat and regulating the Earth’s temperature. However, when fossil fuels (like natural gas, coal, and gasoline) are burned or when materials in landfills decompose, the level of GHGs in the atmosphere increases and the global “blanket” of gases becomes thicker. This has caused an increase in the global average temperature as well as more local extreme weather events, drought, and other climate hazards already being experienced in Nevada.
All-In Clark County
All-In Clark County, an initiative to address climate change in the region, is comprised of a county operations plan as well as a community sustainability and climate action planning effort. The Clark County Board of Commissioners adopted the county operations plan in 2021.The now-completed greenhouse gas inventory and the currently-underway climate vulnerability assessment are the foundational technical tools of the community plan and will provide vital information to combat the impacts of climate change in Clark County.
Sources of Greenhouse Gases in Clark County, 2019
Findings in the report show most of the region’s GHG emissions—about 48 percent—come from buildings and the industrial sector combined. This includes energy used to heat homes, turn on lights and power facilities. Specifically, residential and commercial electricity are the primary GHG sources. The transportation sector is the second largest GHG emissions sector in Clark County, contributing approximately 37 percent of regional emissions. The full report is available online at AllinClarkCounty.com.
“By taking a sharp, focused, regional approach to developing this emissions inventory we now have a data set that will drive decision-making to achieve short-term and long-term positive impacts for our residents, visitors and business sector,” said Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones. “The impacts of climate change won’t resolve themselves and this report is just one step on the path to several more steps. We are committed to realizing the goal of zero GHG emissions by 2050 and establishing Clark County as a national example of how to address climate change impacts on all fronts.”
State and Local Inventory Comparison
The Southern Nevada GHG emissions inventory arrives at a different conclusion than the State of Nevada’s GHG inventory. That state’s inventory indicates transportation is the leading cause of GHG emissions, while the Southern Nevada report cites buildings as the top GHG emitter. The difference is due to a difference in focus and variations in accounting. While the state is focused on how electricity is produced within its borders, the community inventory focuses on the impact of electricity usage.
In terms of accounting differences, the State of Nevada accounts for GHGs from the production of electricity within its borders, using a simple data collection process that is consistent with all other states. Because power used at the local level comes from a variety of locations—including state, local and out-of-state sources—emissions can be attributed to both users and producers of electricity, creating a more nuanced set of conclusions.
“While some conclusions may differ between state and local GHG emissions inventories, both are critical tools for creating policy and actions at the community level,” said Henson. “The conclusions are consistent and the goal remains the same: GHG emissions must be reduced to achieve a resilient and sustainable Southern Nevada and State of Nevada for generations to follow.”
About the Report
The Regional Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report was prepared by Clark County on behalf of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition (SNRPC). It is part of the All-In Clark County initiative and is the first regional GHG emissions inventory report since 2014. Regional partners include: Boulder City, City of Henderson, City of Las Vegas, City of Mesquite, City of North Las Vegas, and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. Data for the report was provided by: Clark County Department of Aviation, NV Energy, Overton Power District, Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Republic Services, Silver State Energy Association, Southern Nevada Health District, Southern Nevada Water Authority and Southwest Gas.
About the Department of Environment and Sustainability
The Department of Environment and Sustainability is the air pollution control agency, regional Endangered Species Act compliance program, and sustainability office for all of Clark County, Nevada. Established as the Department of Air Quality by the Clark County Commission in 2001, it was renamed in 2020 and is comprised of three divisions: Air Quality, Desert Conservation Program and Office of Sustainability. Through these three divisions, DES is ensuring the air we share meets healthful, regulatory standards, administering the County's Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan and addressing climate change.
Clark County is a dynamic and innovative organization dedicated to providing top-quality service with integrity, respect and accountability. With jurisdiction over the world-famous Las Vegas Strip and covering an area the size of New Jersey, Clark is the nation’s 11th-largest county and provides extensive regional services to 2.3 million citizens and 45.6 million visitors a year (2019). Included are the nation’s 9th-busiest airport, air quality compliance, social services and the state’s largest public hospital, University Medical Center. The County also provides municipal services that are traditionally provided by cities to 1 million residents in the unincorporated area. Those include fire protection, roads and other public works, parks and recreation, and planning and development.