Understanding our emissions is the first step to take climate action

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) conducts the regional greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory to understand emissions in the seven-county region.

ON TO 2050, the long-range plan for northeastern Illinois, calls for the region to reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent, relative to 2005 levels, by 2050. This target aligns with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming to below 2° Celsius (3.7° Fahrenheit).

Northeastern Illinois is not on track to meeting the GHG emissions target. Between 2010 and 2019, GHG emissions decreased by 9 percent — an average of 1 percent each year. To meet CMAP’s goal, the region needs to increase that to 5 percent annually through 2050.

To help communities reduce emissions and track progress toward long-term goals, CMAP created local emissions summaries for each of the region’s 7 counties, 284 municipalities, and 77 Chicago neighborhoods. The summaries provide a snapshot of emissions from the building, transportation, and waste sectors, as well as related indicators, such as EV registrations and tree canopy coverage.

The region is not on track to meet our emissions reduction target

Transportation emissions continue to increase

Transportation emissions — which come almost entirely from cars, buses, and trucks — increased by 2 percent between 2010 and 2019. Transportation is the only sector that saw an increase in emissions. Although fuel efficiency increased during this time, these savings were offset by an increase in total and per capita vehicle miles traveled.

Most GHG emissions come from buildings

Roughly two-thirds of the region’s emissions come from buildings, in the form of electricity or natural gas for heating and cooking. Electricity emissions have steadily decreased as the region’s electric grid transitions away from carbon-intensive fuel sources, such as coal, to less carbon-intensive sources, such as solar and wind. Emissions from on-site natural gas remain unchanged.

Emissions vary greatly between counties

Chicago and Cook County produce the most total emissions, but also are the most efficient jurisdictions for emissions per person and per job. Will County produces the most emissions per person.

Regional greenhouse gas emissions inventory

The regional greenhouse gas emissions inventory provides a summary of GHG emissions for the seven-county region of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. The report also presents emissions separately for Chicago, which is located almost entirely within Cook County.

This inventory reflects emissions from the three most common human made GHG pollutants: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The report includes newly developed emission estimates for 2019 and updated emission estimates for 2010 and 2015 for the following three sectors:

  • Stationary energy
  • Transportation
  • Waste

Local emissions summaries

CMAP provides greenhouse gas emission summaries for each of the region’s seven counties, 284 municipalities, and 77 Chicago neighborhoods in 2019.

Each summary includes:

  • Emissions summary: Emissions by sector, per capita emissions comparisons, and on-road transportation emissions
  • Energy characteristics: Residential and non-residential energy consumption, per-capita energy consumption comparison, and renewable energy information
  • Transportation characteristics: Mode of travel to work, electric vehicle usage and infrastructure, walkability, and more
  • Community characteristics: Population, jobs, median household income, tree coverage, and more


Data and methodology

The regional greenhouse gas inventory and local summaries use 2019 data. This provides a solid baseline for where emissions stood prior to pandemic-related transportation and energy consumption shifts.

Unlike the larger report and its data, the local summaries are not full inventories. Railroads, aviation, agriculture, and off-road transportation (construction equipment, lawn mowers, etc.) are not included. The summaries should be seen as secondary to any location-specific inventories. However, for most communities, they provide enough information to get started on climate action planning.

In addition, waste emissions are not calculated for each municipality. Rather, these emissions are estimated based on the the communities share of the county population. For Chicago neighborhoods, natural gas consumption is also estimated based on population.

CMAP uses Chicago community areas — the official borders the city uses to collect data — to make the neighborhood-scale emissions summaries. You can find the inventory and regional and local emissions data, along with the full methodologies, on the Data Hub.