The Edmonds City Council got back to business on Wednesday, hearing during its first meeting of 2019 a report on the city’s greenhouse gas emissions along with a brief overview of possible community changes to reduce those emissions — all with the goal of minimizing global warming.
Citizens will have a chance to learn more details about the inventory and possible changes to reduce emissions during an open house Jan. 17 in City Hall’s third-floor Brackett Room, starting at 6:30 p.m. You can see the entire report here.
Led by Councilmember Mike Nelson, the council passed a resolution in 2017 that called for an inventory of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and are the cause of current climate change. Such an inventory is also known as a carbon footprint.
The inventory presented Tuesday night by consultant Mark Johnson of Environmental Science Associates measured a range of greenhouse gas emissions, from residential buildings to transportation to waste generation. It also covered greenhouse gases produced through household consumption, with the largest impact coming from products imported from outside the city — in particular, from other countries, Johnson said.
The inventory took a look at the year 2017 because that is the most current year for which annual figures are available.
One of the next tasks — and one that will be discussed both during the Edmonds Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee meeting on Jan. 3 and at the Jan. 17 open house — will be recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The goal, Johnson said, is to focus on a “science-based target” that remains constant. As an example, he noted that the Paris Accord on climate change calls for keeping the increase in global average temperature to a maximum of 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels (from about 1760 to around 1840), although the Paris accord has an even lower “pursue” target of 1.5.
The bottom line: a lower desired temperature increase (for example, 1.0 degrees vs. 2.0 degrees) means a higher annual rate of greenhouse gas reduction to reach it.
Pointing to a chart that showed three different target reductions, Johnson noted that all of them are science based. “It’s a matter of choice for your community to figure out which one (of those targets) fits best with your values,” Johnson said.
Johnson also outlined some of the local implications for global warming: By the year 2100, with no further action, average summertime temperatures here would be the same as in Orange County, Calif. — 81 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 70 degrees we now experience, Johnson said.
In addition, as a waterfront community Edmonds would be affected by sea level rise caused by melting ice caps, he explained.
Based on the inventory results and future discussion, the council over the next few months will consider potential policies, programs and actions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The city will also be identifying systems for tracking emissions in the future.
In other action, the council — down to five members with the absence of Councilmembers Kristiana Johnson and Neil Tibbott — also had a lengthy discussion on a topic raised by Councilmember Mike Nelson a few months ago: Whether to begin videotaping city council committee meetings.
Nelson has said he believes all council committee meetings should be on video, in the interest of transparency. Currently, council committee meetings are held simultaneously in separate rooms in the Public Safety Complex, with no video available. Audio recordings are made and notes are taken, although the recordings are not available live and have to be requested via a formal public records request.
On Tuesday night, Nelson shared that city staff estimated it would cost approximately $16,200 in one-time costs to add cameras to the two rooms currently used for committee meetings, plus a few thousand dollars for maintenance. Staff costs to operate the cameras could be required, although it’s likely councilmembers could perform that task since no camera switching is required.
A discussion ensued about whether the current system of audio recording was sufficient. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis argued that it was, stating that she had “no interest” in pursuing video recordings.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” Buckshnis said. “I feel it’s unnecessary because audio is just as transparent as video and we’ve had no complaints, no lawsuits.”
Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked City Clerk Scott Passey if the audio recordings could be made available on demand for citizens to access, and Passey replied he wasn’t certain the city’s current computer network would allow for that function. Passey did say, however, that he could make the recordings available to those who requested them, by the next day.
In the end, the council defeated Nelson’s motion to pursue the video recording idea on a 2-3 vote, with Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas supporting Nelson and Councilmembers Buckshnis, Teitzel and Tom Mesaros voting against.
Also on Tuesday night, in her role as 2018 Council President Fraley-Monillas shared a lengthy list of council appointments to various committees, boards and commissions. We’ll include a listing of those appointments in the next day.
Finally, Fraley-Monillas read a proclamation thanking 2017 Council President Mike Nelson for his service.
— By Teresa Wippel