Chart from the report of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

With the exception of a short period during the COVID-19 pandemic, cars and trucks still remain the top producers of greenhouse gas emissions and have not decreased significantly since 2021, according to a new report from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The report found that even though Improvements in fuel economy have reduced emissions per mile traveled those reductions have been offset by an increase in the overall number of miles driven.  

Preliminary estimates for 2021, the last year included in the report, suggest that transportation sector emissions are returning to prepandemic levels. DEEP said that reductions in the transportation sector are a critical component of any strategy the state employs toward meeting the 2030 and 2050 reduction goals. 

In 2021, approximately 78,000 EVs, plug-in hybrids, or hybrid vehicles were registered in Connecticut. Compared to the 2.5 million gasoline-powered light duty vehicles in service, EVs are still relatively rare.

Tied to this is the decision to export more trash out-of-state due to the closing of the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority in Hartford. 

It’s expected that about 860,000 tons per year, or 40% of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the state requiring disposal, are being exported to other states, traveling an average of 407 miles, primarily to landfills. DEEP estimates that the increase in exports alone will contribute an additional 100,000-150,000 MTCO2e. Before the MIRA facility closed, approximately 17% of total MSW generated was exported for out of state disposal. 

Gov. Ned Lamont believes he has a plan to address this by implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging materials and ramping up collection and processing of source separated food scraps, which make up 22% of the waste stream. But it won’t happen overnight. 

DEEP estimates that these two strategies could reduce the amount of MSW exported for disposal by 385,000 tons per year, while also reducing emissions by 475,000-515,000 MTCO2e. The remaining tonnage exported would have to be addressed through new in-state waste disposal infrastructure in order for Connecticut to regain self-sufficiency.

“We are continuing our urgent work to do our part to mitigate the threat of climate change,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “While we’ve made strides and met our 2020 target, we have much work ahead of us and only seven years to achieve our 2030 goal. The transportation sector continues to be by far the largest source of our emissions, followed by residential sector emissions. With climate change already impacting residents’ health, as well as our environment and our economy, we need the feasible policy solutions proposed in this report, before it’s too late.”

The second biggest culprit of greenhouse gas is residential heating and cooling which has replaced the electric sector as the second-largest emitter in the state; and electric-sector emissions continue to decrease. While Connecticut has met its initial goal for 2020 emissions set by Connecticut statutes, further sharp reductions are needed to meet the medium- and longer-term goals, the agency said. 

In 2019, emissions from the residential sector surpassed those from electricity for the first time and now make up about a fifth of Connecticut’s total economy-wide emissions. Most residential sector emissions originate from oil, propane, and natural gas used for heating; however, some emissions remain from fossil fuel use in cooking, heating water, and drying clothes.

The report found that propane and heating oil account for 61% of residential sector emissions in the state. An estimated 43 % of Connecticut homes use these two fuels for heating. 

More than 70% of Connecticut households utilize an electric range, cooktop, or oven for cooking. Most electric heating, hot water heating, and cooking comes in the form of inefficient electric resistance, in which electric energy is converted directly to heat. 

The agency is holding a meeting today to address the report.