Unsupported Browser

We've detected an older browser version that will not give you the best experience while using The Atlas. Please consider revisitng this site after downloading one of the alternatives below.

Chapel Hill on Track to Achieve Zero Net Emissions by 2050

Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Government Champion

Community Sustainability Division


33 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2019

At a Glance

The Town of Chapel Hill set out to achieve emissions reduction pledges made to the UN Paris Agreement as well as to the community. The creation of greenhouse gas inventories laid the foundation for the town to evaluate its emissions and begin work to reach its 2050 goal of net-zero emissions.

Problem Addressed

The town of Chapel Hill has engaged in battling climate change since 2006 when it first pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. In the town’s view, it has a responsibility to take action in limiting the impacts of climate change for future generations that will live in Chapel Hill. Because of that, Chapel Hill has tracked emissions starting in 2006 but had no way to use that data to drive action. In 2017, the town committed to 26-28% carbon reduction from 2005 levels in order to meet goals laid out by the United Nations Paris Agreement and set out to complete carbon inventories. They wanted to identify where to best allocate time and resources to reduce carbon emissions and build resilience to climate change.

Despite having these goals, the town did not have a clear plan of how to achieve them.

Chapel Hill used/is using greenhouse gas inventories and emission reduction strategies to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

In 2019, the town passed a resolution to create a Climate Action and Response Plan, bringing in KLA to help facilitate community engagement and, among other tasks, help create greenhouse gas inventories.

As part of the project team, KLA undertook a number of steps including creating greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventories, constructing actions to reduce emissions, and developing business-as-usual emission projections. To keep the town on track, KLA created a timeline for implementation of the Climate Action Plan Implementation to easily see what steps needed to be taken in 2025, 2030, 2040, and 2050 in order to continue making progress toward their goals. For example, in 2025, 50% of new buildings will need to be net-zero, and in 2030 there will need to be 11,151 electric vehicles on the road.

Through KLA’s creation of GHG inventories, Chapel Hill was able to identify where 2017 emissions compared to emissions from its 2005 baseline. With the measures Chapel Hill had already taken, total emissions had been reduced by 13%, half of what was required by the UN Paris Agreement. With that knowledge in mind, steps could now be built to incorporate emission reduction into the Climate Action Plan. Two GHG inventories were created, one for the overall community, and one specifically tracking emissions from municipal actions. Buildings were among the top sources of community emissions, responsible for almost 70%. Among sources of municipal emissions, the vehicle fleet was responsible for 52%. Through the use of the data presented in the GHG inventories, the town was able to build in “electrifying 11 fleet vehicles” as a Climate Action Plan goal for 2025. The GHG inventories can be used to monitor high-level trends in emissions and get the ‘big picture' view of emissions in the community.

Through further use of the total emissions data presented in the greenhouse gas inventories, KLA built out business-as-usual emission projections to show the community the impact of not taking action to reduce emissions. Although emissions had dropped between 2005 and 2017, they could begin to climb if the Climate Plan isn’t adhered to.

By soliciting community input through online surveys, social media, and a Community Partners Climate Action Summit, Chapel Hill was able to achieve buy-in from much of the community. After learning of current emissions figures, and where they needed to be in the future to reach the goals set, the community responded that the town should plan for a community that requires less driving and supports more biking, walking, and transit. Additionally, residents spoke out in favor of building more climate-resilient infrastructure and adopting climate-smart development rules.

With action items designed to reduce emissions, GHG inventories monitoring progress in reducing emissions, and a Climate Action Plan ensuring buy-in from the community, Chapel Hill is on track to achieve the long-term goal of producing zero net emissions by 2050.


  1. Chapel Hill implemented greenhouse gas emission inventories to monitor emission reduction progress.
  2. The Town achieved community buy-in on the Climate Action Plan through an equitable community engagement strategy.
  3. The most impactful climate action strategies were identified, based on greenhouse gas inventories and additional quantifications.
  4. The community established climate action goals and trackable metrics.
  5. The town kept itself accountable through the development of business-as-usual emission projections.

Who Should Consider?

Municipalities who want to prioritize a technical and community engagement approach when building a comprehensive Climate Action Plan and GHG Inventory.

Related Local Gov Case Studies

Looking for more?