Climate protection: We all have a role | City Corner

By Shane Hope | Jun 21, 2019

Why should Edmonds do anything to protect our climate? After all, we are just one community among many.

The question is similar to one person asking, "Why should I take care of my own litter, since other people still litter?"

However, the difference is in the magnitude of the impacts. Not doing anything about climate change is likely to result in direct loss of human lives, the wipeout of hundreds or thousands of animal species, the loss of innumerable trees and plants that make up the Northwest as we know it, and many billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure and buildings across the country (and beyond) due to rising seas, more wildfires, and increasing storms.

The City of Edmonds has committed to doing its part to reduce climate change because it is the right thing to do and because it encourages other communities and agencies to do their part, too.

Edmonds' commitment to climate action is not new.

For example, in 2006, the City Council endorsed the Mayors Climate Protection agreement. Mayor Dave Earling appointed citizen volunteers to serve on a Climate Protection Committee. Studies and activities began right away.

By 2010, the council adopted a Climate Action Plan (edmondswa.gov/climate-action-plan-2010.html.)

Meanwhile, the Climate Protection Committee continued working to identify and reach out on climate issues, such as by promoting solar panel installations. City departments converted many of their standard gasoline-powered vehicles to alternate fuels.

In 2017, Mayor Earling signed on to the Mayors National Climate Agenda, which updated the original climate agenda. The City Council endorsed signing of the climate agreement and also resolved to take other steps.

This spring, the Washington state Legislature acted on climate change, including by passing a new law for utilities to eliminate coal-fired power sources by 2025 and have all retail electricity sales be greenhouse-neutral by 2030.

At the local level, Edmonds has inventoried citywide greenhouse gas emissions.

The inventory showed that the biggest source of gas emissions originating in Edmonds was transportation (40 percent). Second was residential buildings (35 percent), then commercial buildings (15 percent).

But other things affect our total greenhouse gas emissions, too. These are things like air travel by local residents and local consumption of goods that are produced elsewhere (food, furniture, clothing, etc.).

With this knowledge, what can we do reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions (aka "carbon footprint"?)

The Climate Protection Committee and the Development Services Department have been studying that. They will make a recommendation later this summer to City Council about the target the City should be aiming for, and key actions to achieve the target.

Changes to the way we do things are not easy.

Our economy and culture are not necessarily poised on their own to prioritize choices that produce the least harm to our natural environment. On the other hand, some external circumstances are coming together to reduce worldwide demand for coal and to make electric vehicle use easier and desirable, both here and abroad.

This will help. But local efforts will be needed, too.

After the City Council adopts a climate target, the City will follow up with specific actions to be taken. Many of these will be identified in a major update to the 2010 Climate Action that will be ready for public review by early 2020.

Elected officials, the Climate Protection Committee, and City staff have been adamant that updating plans and policies are an important start. Yet they know the real test is taking action to actually meet the goals.

The next milestone will be the recommendations made to the City Council at a meeting tentatively scheduled Aug. 9. Edmonds residents can stay tuned on this project by following CPC agendas and by checking the project website at edmondswa.gov/climate/climate-action.html.

After all, the needed changes to protect our climate will come from strong efforts not only by municipal leaders, but by citizens who understand the challenges we must face together.

Shane Hope is the City of Edmonds' Development Services director.

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