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Green DC Agenda - Spotlight - Climate Change

The District's Climate Protection Initiative

Developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a key commitment of the Green DC Agenda. By completing a CAP, the District will join a growing number of local governments around the country taking local action to fight global climate change. The Climate Action Plan will build on the current successes in the Green DC Agenda and identify opportunities to not only improve the quality of life and the environment in the District, but to also have a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The CAP will include concrete measures to reduce emissions from District Government operations and across the entire community.

Climate Action Planning

The District Government is working with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and is following ICLEI’s Five Milestone Climate Protection methodology.  The Five Milestone’s are:

  • Milestone One: Inventory greenhouse gas emissions
  • Milestone Two: Set an emissions reductions target
  • Milestone Three: Develop a plan
  • Milestone Four: Implement the plan
  • Milestone Five: Monitor Implementation progress

The District has completed a GHG emissions inventory for its government operations and is completing an inventory for community-wide emissions. Next, with support from ICLEI and other local experts the District will develop an emissions reduction target that is aggressive but achievable.

District Government Carbon Footprint

The GHG emissions inventory, or carbon footprint, of District Government operations covers calendar year 2006 for all possible sources of emissions including buildings and facilities, streetlights and traffic signals, vehicle fleet, wastewater facilities, and solid waste. This summary provides an overview of the inventory results; a final report will be released in June 2009. The inventory will be used by the District as a baseline for measuring progress for all existing and future GHG emission reduction activities. The inventory is an essential first step in reducing emissions, because it is not possible to manage what you can’t measure.

Buildings and facilities comprise the greatest percentage of emissions resulting from District Government operations. An effective emissions reduction plan will need to comprehensively reduce energy use in buildings. Electricity consumption is the largest cause of GHG emissions.

Buildings and Facilities

The District Government has over 500 facilities in its building profile, totaling 61 percent of the District’s GHG emissions. This includes police stations, fire stations, schools, maintenance facilities, courthouses, leased space, and other facilities. Buildings not only generate GHG emissions from the electricity used within the buildings, but also from the natural gas, fuel oil, and steam used to heat the buildings.

Wastewater Facilities 

Treating the District’s wastewater – such as stormwater from the streets and wastewater from our homes - generates GHG emissions from the electricity used to pump and treat the water in addition to generating nitrous oxide – a high global warming potential gas – during the treatment process. Wastewater treatment facilities were the second largest emitter and produced 25 percent of the Districts GHG emissions in 2006.
(The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant receives flow from multiple jurisdictions outside the District, and the emissions figures reflect energy used to treat other jurisdictions wastewater.)

Streetlights and Traffic Signals

The lights lining our streets and the signals controlling our traffic all use electricity, and as a result all generate GHG emissions. The District has approximately 78,500 street lights and 4,000 traffic signals, which represent 7 percent of the District Government operations emissions profile.

Vehicle Fleet

To provide vital services such as police and fire protection and trash collection, the District operates approximately 6,000 vehicles, running mostly on gasoline and diesel and to a lesser extent on ethanol and compressed natural gas (CNG). This fuel use cost the District over $8 million in 2006 and comprised 7 percent of the GHG emission profile.

Solid Waste

The waste generated within District Government buildings is sent to landfills in the region. As this waste decomposes it produces methane, which is less than one percent of the District’s GHG emissions profile.

Reducing Emissions

The District has already begun to take action against climate change through its Renewable Portfolio Standard, Green Building Act, home weatherization, and other programs. These first steps demonstrate that the District is committed to both conserving energy use and to developing the market for clean energy.  Green building projects abound in the District, from the new Nationals Park to the LEED Silver Stoddert Elementary School. These exciting projects will set the stage for bigger and bolder measures to fight climate change.

Using the GHG inventory as a baseline, the next step will be to quantify the emissions reduction impact of the District’s existing measures, such as the reductions in the vehicle fleet, improvements to building energy efficiency, and the installation of green roofs at One Judiciary Square and the Reeves Center. The emissions reduction potential of key commitments including the conversion of vehicles to alternative fuels will also be calculated. Developing the CAP will also identify additional measures that have potential to not only cut GHG emissions, but to also save money and clean the air.

What You Can Do

The District’s CAP will also include resources and advice for District residents and businesses on how to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint. Greening D.C. will require collaboration between the government, business, local institutions, and residents to each do their part to reduce emissions. As a first step, residents can sign up for a free home energy audit and weatherization services (for income-qualified households) to identify how to conserve energy and reduce GHG emissions at home.

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