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Emission Reduction GoalsKnoxville City Council prioritizes fighting climate change and leading by example

Being a Sustainable Community Means Addressing Climate Change

Climate change is real and intensifying many challenges we already face in Knoxville, like extreme heat, extreme storms, flash flooding, air pollution, and pests. It threatens our property, our wallets, our health, and the places we love, like the Great Smoky Mountains. Across the world, millions of lives are at risk. Experts agree: bold leadership is necessary to protect our children and grandchildren from the worst effects of climate change and prepare communities to deal with increasing impacts. To learn more about the science of climate change, visit NASA's Climate Change web portal.

Reducing Knoxville’s emissions footprint is crucial to combating climate change, improving our ability to bounce back from disasters, protecting our health, and being smart with taxpayer dollars. Clean energy jobs are growing quickly, and supporting the green economy here in Knoxville catalyzes private investment, with corresponding growth in business and jobs.

History of Leadership

In 2008, the City set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 relative to 2005 levels for both municipal operations and the broader community. We met and exceeded our municipal goal early, and continued to prioritize driving down community emissions.

In 2019, City Council unanimously adopted two new goals to align with our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and U.S. Climate Mayors:
     1. A 50% reduction in greenhouse gases for municipal operations by 2030 (from 2005 levels)
     2. An 80% reduction in greenhouse gases for the entire community by 2050 (from 2005 levels)

In 2020, Mayor Indya Kincannon convened over 65 community leaders and technical experts to identify strategies to meet our community climate goal. Learn more about the Mayor’s Climate Council here.

Measuring Climate Impact

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N20) are the leading cause of climate change. The City has tracked GHG emissions from both municipal operations and the community as a whole since 2005, and published inventories every few years to track our progress. Learn more about our emissions inventories here.

City Government Leads by Example: 50% Reduction by 2030Municipal Emissions

Emissions from City operations have decreased significantly since 2005 (most recently measured at a 32% reduction). City investment in energy efficiency has reduced emissions while saving taxpayer dollars and maintaining the quality services our residents expect. Learn more about Municipal emissions here.

Our new goal to reduce municipal emissions by 50% by 2030 is ambitious but realistic. With steady leadership, the City can make smart, fiscally-responsible investments in new, cost-competitive technologies and operational innovations that achieve deep emission reductions while maintaining high-quality services.

Aspiring for Deep Community Progress: 80% Reduction by 2050Community Emissions

Emissions from Knoxville’s community have increased since 2005 (most recently measured at an 8% increase) as population and economic activity have grown. Learn more about Community emissions here.

Our new goal to reduce community emissions 80% by 2050 will require changes to technology markets and energy systems – most of which are outside City control. But the City is an agent of change, and by setting our compass toward a dramatically lower-carbon future, we aim to motivate cross-sector leadership to ensure Knoxville remains a great place for all residents to call home for generations to come. We know that responsible environmental practices can go hand in-hand with economic development and an improved, more equitable quality of life.


   • NASA - Global Climate Change
   • EPA - Climate Change
   • NOAA Climate Resilience Toolkit
   • ORNL Climate Change Science Institute
   • UT Institute for a Secure & Sustainable Environment