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Seattle’s Climate Pollution Holding Steady Despite Significant Population Growth

Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment released the 2014 – 2016 analysis of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions, showing that the Seattle is largely holding steady on climate pollution despite rapid population growth city-wide.

Seattle’s core climate emissions increased less than .6 percent between 2014 and 2016, while the city grew by 46,300 new residents over that same time period. Per person emissions were down citywide, but the largest source of carbon pollution remains emissions from the transportation sector.

To help Seattle meet its climate goals and address vehicle emissions, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced in her State of the City address  new legislation that will require all new buildings in Seattle to be ready for electric vehicle (EV) charging. Increased adoption of clean, electric vehicles has the potential to decrease Seattle’s vehicle emissions by up to 20 percent.

The City of Seattle tracks its progress towards its climate goals back to a baseline year of 2008. Since then, Seattle has reduced overall climate emissions 5 percent while population has grown 18 percent. The City’s emissions reductions amidst a population boom is a significant accomplishment. Seattle’s annual per person emission rate of 4.3 metric tons of CO2e points to Seattle being one of the most climate-friendly cities in the nation.

“It is good news we’ve held our emissions steady while our population grows. But this report also underscores the need to dramatically accelerate pollution reduction to meet our ambitious goals,” said Jessica Finn Coven, director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. “The City is moving full steam ahead on Mayor Durkan’s climate commitments and we are prepared to meet the challenge of climate change in Seattle.”

The second largest source of carbon emissions identified in the report is building emissions. Seattle has been a leader in reducing building emissions through one of the nation’s strongest energy codes, a benchmarking program requiring owners of larger buildings to provide energy use data to the city, and an aggressive building tune-up program. In 2019, Seattle will continue to incentivize a move away from fossil fuels and toward efficiency upgrades to ensure building emissions continue to decrease.

You can learn more about how the city will address our carbon emissions and reach our 2050 carbon neutral goal in the 2018 Climate Action Strategy.