City of Seattle Addressing Climate Change & GHG Emissions

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Seattle has been a leader in addressing climate change for years. Most recently, the City released its ambitious 2013 Climate Action Plan, a package of actions intended to put Seattle on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050, which is defined as zero net emissions. The Plan focuses on a set of core emissions sources where City and local community action can have the greatest impact: road transportation, building energy, and waste. The City’s specific emission-reduction targets for these core sources are 58%
by 2030, and 87% by 2050 below 2008 levels.

Our latest evaluation of emissions data, which tracks the period from 1990 to 2012, allows us to monitor our progress toward our goals, and it will inform Seattle’s ongoing climate action planning. The results of the 2012 inventory show that total emissions in the core sectors have declined 4% from 1990 levels. But reductions in total emissions only tell part of the story and it is important to remember that between 1990 and 2012, Seattle’s population and jobs grew 23% and 14% respectively, even while our emissions fell.

The 2012 GHG inventory demonstrates that cities can grow in population and economic activity while still reducing emissions. Another look at the 2012 emissions inventory on a per person basis underscores the point that on an individual level, core greenhouse gas emissions are shrinking rather significantly. Per person core emissions decreased 22% from 1990 to 2012, and 6% from 2008 to 2012. In fact, Seattle’s per person core emissions have been about half the national average and a third lower than the average King County resident outside Seattle.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventories are the primary means of monitoring and reporting progress toward emission-reduction goals. Seattle’s latest GHG inventory, which tracks the period from 1990 to 2012, allows us to monitor our progress toward our goals, and it will inform Seattle’s ongoing climate action planning.

Seattle’s emissions are considered from two perspectives:

  • Core emissions are those which the City has the greatest opportunity to influence: building energy use, road transportation, and waste management.
  • Expanded emissions include additional sources, such as industry, marine, rail, and air travel, yard equipment, and wastewater treatment.

This most recent inventory shows that total emissions in our core sectors have declined 4% from 1990 levels. But reductions in total emissions only tell part of the story and it is important to remember that between 1990 and 2012, Seattle’s population and jobs grew 23% and 14% respectively, even while our emissions fell. The 2012 GHG inventory demonstrates that cities can grow in population and economic activity while still reducing emissions.

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