Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Aerial view of solar power plant with rows of solar panels. Image credit 123rf/nachai


The world must keep the rise in global temperatures below at least 2 degrees Celsius—and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius—to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Deep decarbonization is a must—it won’t be easy, but it is achievable.

To meet the temperature targets set by the Paris Agreement, the world economy needs to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through an energy transition. Every aspect of the global economy—agriculture, construction, heavy industry, finance, transportation, the electric grid itself, and more—must transform to reduce emissions while capturing and storing as much carbon as possible.

In the United States, market trends and recent legislation—mostly notably the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2022—provide strong policy momentum for this energy transition. US net-zero goals are also technically feasible since the types of technologies needed to decarbonize emissions-intensive sectors are either known or in development.

Through the Energy Pathways USA project, the Nicholas Institute and public- and private-sector partners across multiple industries are tackling the challenge head on by exploring ways to accelerate progress toward a sustainable, net-zero future for the United States.

Other relevant Nicholas Institute efforts include initiatives to advance transportation electrification and offshore wind development in the US Southeast and innovative research to direct financing to low- and middle-income countries for access to clean energy.


Capping Carbon Emissions

Cap and trade is a market-based approach to controlling pollution that works by issuing a set number of permits to effectively cap the total tons of emissions allowed.

Climate Policy Under the Clean Air Act

Through detailed legal and economic analysis coupled with high-level stakeholder engagement, the Nicholas Institute identifies cost-effective options for using the Clean Air Act to protect public health and encourage deployment of innovative technologies.

Energy Pathways USA

Energy Pathways USA will accelerate progress toward a net-zero carbon future by developing workable solutions with public- and private-sector partners across multiple key industries.

Green Banks

A green bank, or clean energy fund, is a market-based approach to boost investment in clean and efficient energy solutions. Drawing from the best practices of successful green banks across the country, the Nicholas Institute is advising states in the Southeast on design, development, and implementation of green banks.

North Carolina Energy Efficiency Roadmap

The North Carolina Energy Efficiency Roadmap is a guide developed by the Nicholas Institute to help the state implement new solutions, remove barriers, and achieve its energy efficiency potential. 

North Carolina Power Sector Carbon Policies

The North Carolina power sector is poised for transition. Economics have driven big changes on the grid, making cleaner options for electricity generation cost competitive with traditional resources such as fossil fuels.

South Carolina Electric Vehicle Stakeholder Initiative

The Nicholas Institute collaborated with the South Carolina Energy Office to facilitate a stakeholder engagement process exploring opportunities to advance electric vehicle deployment in the state.

South Carolina Energy Efficiency Roadmap

Energy efficiency (EE) is widely considered a least-cost option for meeting energy demand while reducing energy costs and carbon emissions.

Southeast Electric Transportation Regional Initiative

SETRI is a multisector network of businesses, manufacturers, nonprofit organizations, research institutions, and more that seeks to convene, collaborate, and inform on transportation electrification in the Southeast.

Southeast Regional Electric Vehicle Information Exchange

The Nicholas Institute and the National Association of State Energy Offices (NASEO) facilitate this information exchange with state and territory energy and transportation offices across the Southeast.