The Edmonds Climate Action Plan is on the move, with the recent March 25 workshop building on the momentum gained at the Feb. 18 open house. Most significantly, project staff have posted an online community feedback survey asking the public to provide their thoughts, ideas and opinions that will be folded into the final plan to help ensure that it reflects the values and goals of the community.
Attended by more than 40 participants and moderated by consultant Mike Chang, the recent virtual workshop gave an overview of the plan’s overarching aim to help guide the city and its residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality within the next 30 years. During the workshop, project staff reviewed the current inventory breaking down greenhouse gas emissions and sources attributed to Edmonds, and the range of various strategies and actions identified to date to address these and bring Edmonds to zero net carbon emissions by 2050 (see details in the workshop PowerPoint presentation).
“The main focus is to address emissions that occur in Edmonds or as a result of energy use in Edmonds,” explained project consultant Mark Johnson.
He went on to clarify that these include emissions resulting from such things as local fuel consumption, imported electricity and use of food, goods and services. He then presented charts illustrating that the major local sources of these are transportation, buildings (both residential and commercial), and waste management/patterns of natural resource use.
To achieve the goal of zero net emissions by 2050, the plan lays out a three-pronged approach that would focus on buildings, waste/natural resources and transportation.
For new and existing buildings, this would include improving building efficiency by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources and improving the efficiency of existing and new buildings by retrofit and code requirements respectively.
Waste and natural resource strategies would focus on reducing material consumption, waste generation and resource depletion, while increasing carbon sequestration by, among other things, planting up to 10,000 new trees.
Transportation is a major focus area and would include encouraging sustainable land use patterns (for example, locating housing close mass transportation corridors), promoting active transportation including carpooling and vehicle sharing, and encouraging electric and other low-carbon emission vehicles.
“Increasing electric vehicles is where we potentially get the biggest bang for the buck,” Johnson explained. “Right now we have about 37,000 total vehicles in Edmonds, but in 2017 only 370 of these were electric. By December 2020 this had doubled, and by 2050 we hope to see 15,000 electric vehicles in Edmonds, which would be about 33% of the projected total vehicles at that time.”
Questions from participants included concerns about the viability of solar in our cloudy climate, and that since it only works when the sun shines, it’s an unreliable source.
“It’s nice virtue signaling,” observed the questioner, “but you can’t run a society on unreliable power like that.”
Johnson responded that since the power grid is expected to be carbon neutral by 2030, local solar probably won’t be a big factor in any case.
Another questioner asked about how solid wastes can be reduced by strategies other than recycling, to which Johnson responded that reducing use of disposable items and diverting organics (which produce methane in landfills) are also part of this effort.
After the brief question-and-answer session, participants divided into virtual breakout groups to further explore the three main focus areas (buildings, natural resources and transportation), and to brainstorm new strategies.
Reporting back, all breakout groups identified equity and accessibility as critical factors, stressing that in considering such things as e-bikes and public transportation provision needs to be included for groups such as the elderly and parents with small children.
“If there are going to be programs that will involve additional regulation and costs, we need to consider how these will affect those less able to afford them,” observed one participant.
Other considerations included finding creative ways to put more than one goal together as a way of getting more done with less, with one suggesting that in considering where the proposed 10,000 new trees would be planted to consider targeting lower income areas of the community to “help lift them up.”
Additional ideas included focusing on schools, incentivizing electric vehicles, and looking at electric generation sources beyond solar such as geothermal.
Summing up the session, Chang stressed the survey as the next critical step, which will provide the critical input to inform the next set of plan revisions. These will be presented at a second community workshop and survey to be conducted this fall, with the goal of synthesizing the input received into the final report by year end.
“Right now the most important thing is to complete the online survey,” he reiterated. “This input is critical to moving us forward to achieve carbon neutrality in our community.”
— By Larry Vogel