When it comes to climate protection, Edmonds still has work to do

Olympic Beach

A sunny afternoon at Olympic Beach. Yes, it’s hot right now – for Edmonds – but the city just warned that in the next 25 years, projections show that summertime temperatures could be 7 degrees higher than we’re experiencing now. The issue – climate change and how we and our city are going to deal with it.

Talk about climate change and it sparks passion — whether you accept the threat of it or question the impact on our planet. There is very little we can do about the “big” global picture and that part of the debate.

But the state has already passed climate action goals and regulations that affect this city. And when Edmonds adopted a Climate Action Plan 12 years ago, it committed to “preventing the harms from climate change.”

The problem is that “the Edmonds community has not kept pace with its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” – that quote is from the city’s 2022 summary of its Climate Action Plan.  The next sentence says it all: “To avert the worst harm from global climate change, we must achieve an even more ambitious rate of emissions reductions.”

Susan McLaughlin, the City of Edmonds Development Services Director, speaks during Thursday’s open house.

 An update to that plan is in the works. That’s what brought two dozen people to an open house Thursday at the Edmonds Waterfront Center, as Development Director Susan McLaughlin, staff and consultants asked the audience for feedback. After a second open house in August, a draft of the new plan will go to the city douncil for action this fall.

Attendees at the climate change open house at the Edmonds Waterfront Center.

When attendees were asked what they thought were the biggest environmental issues around climate, people offered “fires,” “flooding,” “resource conflict” and “reducing natural gas.”

 Most in the group embraced the concepts, but attendee Wally Danielson did not. “This is a horrible plan, natural gas has helped save the country,” he argued. “All you hear is an echo chamber of climate champions.”

McLaughlin insists the city wants the Climate Action Plan to “be pivotal,” but admits “we really haven’t made much headway even since 2010.”

Why not?

The Edmonds Climate Action Plan

In 2010, the city adopted that first Climate Action Plan. Prominent in it was this quote:

 “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

                          — Rajendra Pachauri – United Nations panel on Climate Change

The “defining moment” has come and long gone, and Edmonds has a lot to do to meet its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. McLaughlin told the open house that though the city is tracking progress, “if we adopt and implement all the actions, we still have a gap” in meeting the goal.

Reducing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) is key. It helps warm our planet – good – but excessive CO2 traps the sun’s heat and temperatures rise – bad.

In a 2017 green house gas emission survey, the city found that two-thirds of emissions — totaling 500,000 metric tons, primarily carbon dioxide — are “imported.” That means they are generated outside Edmonds “to produce the goods, food and services” we consume.  Can’t do much about that, the city admits.

An aerial photo of the Edmonds waterfront. (My Edmonds News file photo)

The remaining 250,000 tons of emissions are on us; homes and cars create 90% of that. One woman asked about the climate impact of “three-story condos.” McLaughlin responded that “the problem is more about single-family houses” — and their energy use — than commercial or condo buildings. Homes use 75% of the natural gas in the city and commercial buildings 25%.

 In the 2022 climate plan,  the city call to action includes “new multi-family and commercial  buildings to be 100% electric by next year.” But it isn’t mandatory that new housing construction meet that goal, and the city can’t force existing homeowners to switch from gas to electricity. Since 2000, natural gas consumption in Edmonds has increased 25%, according to city figures

Emissions from cars, trucks and buses have increased 27% in the last 20 years. The city wants to reduce that: get more of us out of cars, encourage more electric and hybrid vehicles, encourage bike and scooter sharing programs, promote pedestrian improvements, coordinate with transit for more service.

What has the city done until now?

City Climate Action Plan accomplishments

New energy-efficient equipment at the Edmonds wastewater treatment plant. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

Upgrades at wastewater treatment plant

– New equipment at plant promises to cut CO2 emissions to “near zero”

– Cuts electrical consumption by one-third

– Eliminates fossil fuels for the incineration process

– Converts solids to a product Edmonds can sell, keeping it out of landfills.

Upgraded energy efficiency in city facilities

– From 2019-2021, the city bought 100% renewable electricity from Snohomish PUD for city buildings.

– But PUD says Edmonds has not enrolled this year

Installed 20 public electric charging stations

Upgraded city fleet

– Edmonds now has six electric, 11 hybrid and 33 propane vehicles

– The city is adding six more electric and eight more propane vehicles this year

Completed a tree canopy assessment 

There is a new section in the plan – Climate Equity. The city points out an imbalance in the way climate change affects different groups, especially those in what it now calls “frontline communities.” They include those with lower incomes who live in less-affluent housing and neighborhoods. Edmonds says residents in those communities often “live in denser settings, use transit, conserve energy and consume less.”

The city data shows people with incomes of $120,000 and up “produce green house gas emissions that are double those of households with income between $40,000 and $80,000.” But what the analysis does not say is that frontline communities aren’t living in dense settings, using transit and consuming less because they want to – but because they can’t afford it. We’re waiting for details on how the action plan might address that

On Earth Day, April 21, 2009, the Edmonds community began to tell its leaders what people wanted for the future. Based on that and other input, Edmonds put together what it called the draft of a “comprehensive action plan” in the summer of 2009.

“In the year 2050 we see… Edmonds is one of many flourishing communities in the Puget Sound region of Western Washington with our energy coming from nearly 100% renewable sources, our waste streams approaching zero, and nearly all our products and services obtained from sustainable sources. Our community continues to serve as our foundation; we are engaged citizens with strong neighborhood connections. We value our natural setting along the shores of Puget Sound”.

                  — Our Vision for Edmonds: 2050 Edmonds Climate Change Action Plan (2010)

Next month, city planners will hold another climate action open house at Edmonds Lutheran Church. Later in the fall, it will unveil the “new” draft Climate Action Plan. It then goes to Edmonds City Council.

Twelve years ago, we penciled in our future. We set priorities, goals, action items. Twelve years later, it appears there is still so much more to do.

The next Climate Plan Open House is Aug. 11 at Edmonds Lutheran Church, 23525 84th Ave. W., from 6-8 p.m.

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. The “city” warned in the next 25 years temperatures could be 7 degrees warmer in Edmonds? Who is the city, trained climatologists? This is ridiculous. The USA and small Edmonds is not impacting carbon emissions in our fragile world, we have reduced our emissions significantly over the last 20 years, thanks to horizontal drilling from fossil fuels.
    How is electricity produced to charge electric vehicles? 98% fossil fuels and hydro, wind and solar are 1-2%. That number will not go up enough in the next 10-20 years to move the needle.
    We need to see change in world carbon emissions from where they are produced, in China and India. All concerned on this topic please go there and help!

    1. Bill,

      You are 100% spot on with your comments. Thank you! The real goal behind the climate change issue in the US is to generate more tax revenue for government and at the same time try and make taxpayers feel better about paying higher taxes.

    2. China produces the most co2 emissions because they have the most people. The US is the second biggest polluter and India, is the third according to a 2020 study by the world meteorological organization. India in fact produced half of our CO, despite containing more than three times our population. India produces 2654 million tons of CO2, the US produces 5416 million tons. If the US produced the same amount of CO2 per person, we would be producing 27,080 MILLION tons of co2. We aren’t the largest per capita polluter, but we are the largest with substantial impact. Despite having SIX times our population, China only produces twice our co2 emissions. The biggest factor in determining a countries co2 output is development, as of today, more developed countries produce more co2. To ask India and China to reduce their co2 output, is to ask them to deindustrialize and return their people to poverty.

  2. And of course the ultimate solution is to turn downtown into a European style walking mall surrounded by at least five story buildings full of 900 sq. ft. apartments with absolutely no parking for any of those pesky gas burning death machines. Since old cars are among the worst polluters on the planet, all future classic car shows are to be banned and the never open 50’s diner will be reimagined as a grass juice bar and cannabis edibles shop. All business will be required to be entertainment, travel or food service related by Mayoral decree. Only then will we have the perfect Climate friendly city we all so richly deserve and the planet will be saved by little ‘ol Edmonds city staff.

  3. Americans have the largest carbon footprint well heeled Americans (Edmonds citizens) footprint is double that of many. Really there isn’t much the city can do it is the people that need to curb their behavior. The only way to make a difference is to do with less, less heat less cooling less driving less travel less clothes less new everything. Want to make a difference look in the mirror not to government to solve your percieved problems. But hey I guess if they tax you enough you won’t be able to afford such a large carbon footprint. You know if my diesel truck lasts another 15 years I will have a smaller carbon footprint than if I buy a new electric one. I would prefer the city focus on environmental issues and preparing for rising sea levels because the climate is going to change no matter what we do short of going back to the stone age.

  4. Jim, great points but you just don’t understand the issue. In order to work, our actions to save the planet have to dovetail nicely with the economic and political plans some have for how our city should look and feel in the next two decades and beyond. This is purely about best practice’s (wink, wink), and nothing about planned advantages and profits for certain people among our population vs. other people in our population. In my view the real problem, in terms of climate, is that there are now just too damn many people on the planet to keep it all in balance. Over time mother nature will solve this problem, we won’t.

  5. How do we reconcile competing issues? Trees vs solar panels? Is it ok to remove a tree to have a place for a solar panel? Or is the tree more important than the ability to create solar energy? How do we make decisions on issues that appear to be in conflict?

    Most issues on the table today have conflict with other issues. You all can name them. Do we sort out the facts for conflicting issues or should we just make decisions based on opinions?

    What is our vision for the community? Tough questions and tougher “trade-offs”.

    1. Exactly Darrol, most issues on the table today have conflict with other issues. And why is that?

      I think a lot of the problem is there are just too many of us, trying to live in too close proximity to each other, with too many different ideas of right and wrong, and how to do what needs to be done with confusion over what really needs to be done and what doesn’t.

      For example, it would be great for the environment and cooling down our property to have a large shade tree planted on our South side. On the downside, that would destroy our neighbor’s view and cause lots of heartache and bad feelings which are not necessary and a bad thing to have happen. I want the freedom to do what I want to do, but I also want to respect my neighbor’s freedom and happiness so we both have to compromise our freedoms a little bit to meet our respective needs and wants for our best lives here.

      As to your points about a community vision, I totally agree that we have to come together and decide what we want to be, do and say as a community, but I have a real problem with how we are going about it. Visioning ideas need to come from the bottom up; not the top down. We currently have partisan, top down government with Staff people putting on visioning/reimageining neighborhood seminars and I think that is not appropriate. They need to run the city government, not be it’s vision agents. Visioning should come from the people served, not the public servants they hire to do the work. This is like having a building contractor design and build the home he/she wants, not you. Bad idea.

    2. Kashf correct but in order to affect climate change we would have to do without much of what those country’s produce. In effect hurting them about the same as trying to have them reduce their fossil fuel use. It is lose lose for them on this front. In general US consumption is what makes the world go round. I got a idea go buy a electric car and save the world economy. Now that might make more sense than save the planet from climate change.

  6. For those who really want to learn about man made climate in the Pacific Northwest I suggest:


    He is professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. His research focuses on numerical weather modeling and prediction, the role of topography in the evolution of weather systems, regional climate modeling, and the weather of the Pacific Northwest. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, past president of the Puget Sound American Meteorological Society chapter, and past chair of the College of the Environment College Council. Eis professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, past president of the Puget Sound American Meteorological Society chapter, and past chair of the College of the Environment College Council.

    Mass has been critical of some local hearsay media journalism and political agendas lacking in science.

  7. The reasons sane people are no longer listening to radical climate alarmists are legion. Starting with the fact that every dire prediction they have made over the past 50+ years have not happened. What these people want is a Matrix type society with everyone living in equal misery with the possible exception of themselves. These “experts” do not even consider activity of the sun, tilt of the earth , shifting of the poles, influence of the moon & etc. . Hey, what ever happened to the 2-3 thousand feet of ice that used to sit right on top of Edmonds millions of years ago ? Too many people and cars maybe ? Why don’t all of you ACCC alarmists get a different dog, this one no longer hunts.

  8. Noble intentions but the real outcomes of this will be tiny. Any action on climate change is better done by the state or federal government, or even through international law. I’d rather my city focus on providing services that directly benefit the citizens, reducing crime, improving walkability (highlighted), and increasing transit.

  9. Brother Iqbal, how dare you try to stop Edmonds City government’s righteous march to cure all the worlds problems. Bringing up what City government is supposed to be all about. Next you will say we need to stop harassing and spending our tax money to attack our own citizens about their beach rights, tree ownership and rights of way. What is this world coming to?

  10. To clarify, in my post the ACCC I referenced is “Anthropogenic Catastrophic Climate Change” . Doesn’t seem to show up when “Googled”. Probably because it only exists in the mind of Al Gore and others who profit from pushing it.

  11. Frank, I totally agree with Mr. Iqbal’s take on this and also agree with you that much of this is profit driven by special interests. Natural gas to power electric plants, big trucks, cars and taxis etc. was the answer until it wasn’t. Suddenly natural gas is all bad and should be outlawed. A little drastic and over dramatic I think.

    For awhile it was hydrogen to be the magic bullet, but now that’s out because it’s so flammable and an infrastructure to supply it would be both dangerous and really expensive to set up. The tanks in the cars would be possible rolling time bombs (think the Hindenburg), but it would be good because what comes out of the tailpipes would be oxygen and water.

    Now the darling is all electric cars. The achilles heal of EVs is that used ones will become unsaleable because replacing the batteries will cost more than the value of the cars and trucks. That is already happening with early versions. Also tons of fossil fuel is used to mine and ship the component rare metals for the batteries.

    Solar and wind are pretty much bullet proof but the “fuel” to run them is not plentiful or steady in many places. Solar and wind require more storage batteries to be inserted into the grid and that requires costs in fossil fuels to make them and cost to recycle or junk them down the road. No easy answers.

    The city is well advised to do climate friendly things, where practical, in purchasing, upgrading required equipment and landscaping, but beyond that, this issue is better left to the states and nations to mitigate as much as possible. There is a huge problem that man has largely caused but it’s doubtful man will be able to solve it. The problem is really over population, and nature seems to take care of that eventually to bring things back into balance. Or a meteor strikes that changes the climate and wipes out the dominant species, which could be us someday..

  12. 45,000 Jets fly over every 5 days here. So stop it. Those are your real serious fossil fuel issues. Electrify the grid and use rail. We have already cleared the mountain passes now we use electric and go faster as in CHINA and other places. Stop blaming and asking people to do things they cannot afford. Quit telling people how to live their lives and trying to use a guilt trip. The far left is hurting. There is a reason for that. Many Democrats are not feeling the love so to speak. Here make transportation electric with a stop where ever if you want to spend money. I think it is quite obvious that no view will be obstructed West of 9th. Do you know how this looks to the other 75% of this city? As people pass away and go into assisted living buildings more single family housing will be available for those to buy who want to come to Edmonds. There will always be those who want to live here. But to take us way beyond our growth level is ridiculous. The housing planned and in development now take those units times 4 or 5 and we are way exceeding our growth needed to be at capacity.
    The world does have serious problems, I blame part on just climate is changing as it has from the beginning of time. You cannot ignore this. And according to Al Gore in an Inconvenient Truth well he was right in many ways. Edmonds cannot change the world or All of its citizens who BTW want a yard, are doing them in a way to keep the Bowl from flooding. This foolish talk which is clearly NOT non partisan has gone on for too long, that is why we have a different CC. WE need CC members who care about all of Edmonds. Not one who wants for often selfish reasons. I work out at home. WE have a very nice machine. Quit telling us to walk, what to eat, and how to get places. Tiresome it is.

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