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Seattle releases greenhouse gas inventory

On September 7, the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment released the 2014 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. A greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory is an accounting of the climate change pollution generated in the city over a specific period of time. This is Seattle’s fourth GHG report and the second since adopting the Seattle Climate Action Plan in 2013.

“Greenhouse gas inventories are a critical tool to tell us if we are on track to meet our climate goals,” said Jessica Finn Coven, director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment. “This most recent report shows that we can grow our economy while we reduce our climate pollution. That is excellent news.”

Seattle’s climate goals—as identified in the 2013 Seattle Climate Action Plan—are to reduce emissions 58% by 2030 and ultimately become a carbon neutral city by 2050. The Plan lays out a suite of strategies to reduce emissions in the sectors where local government has the most influence—road transportation, building energy, and waste.

ghgpiechartWhile Seattle’s 2014 GHG inventory shows encouraging signs, it also demonstrates that there is more work to do. Changes in emissions between 2008 and 2014 include:

  • Total GHGs from Seattle’s core emissions sources declined 6%. During the same time period population grew by 13% and per person emissions decreased 17%.
  • Total road transportation emissions declined 2% due to a combination of more fuel-efficient vehicles and fewer miles travelled per resident.
  • Total Building energy emissions declined 13% as a result of increased energy efficiency, more multi-family living, and warmer weather that reduced heating needs.

The sobering reality is that while our progress is positive, we are not currently on pace to meet our 2030 climate goals. We know we must scale up the pace of our emissions reductions and we have already taken steps to make that happen.

Seattle has recently launched several initiatives in our transportation and energy sectors aimed at putting us on track towards meeting our climate goals. Those initiatives include:

  • Drive Clean Seattle: A comprehensive strategy to transition our transportation sector, including passenger cars, trucks, transit and maritime transportation, from polluting fossil fuels to clean, carbon-neutral electricity.
  • Move Seattle: A suite of investments in transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure and service that will continue to reduce the overall vehicle miles traveled in Seattle.
  • Building Energy Transparency: Updated Seattle’s existing energy benchmarking law to include public transparency of building energy performance to spur market demand for energy efficiency.
  • Building Tune-Ups: Passed legislation phasing in a periodic tune-up requirement for large commercial buildings beginning in 2018. Tune-ups will optimize energy and water performance and encourage active management in Seattle’s commercial buildings.
  • 2015 Energy Code: The proposed 2015 Energy Code (commercial) would increase the efficiency of new construction and substantial alternations of existing buildings, and includes a provision that would help drive use of efficient carbon neutral heat pumps instead of natural gas or inefficient electric resistance heating.

“We know more needs to be done to achieve our ambitious climate goals and we are committed to taking the necessary steps,” said Finn Coven.