The population of Seattle rose 16 percent since 1990, but the city’s overall energy consumption climbed only slightly. Amazingly, greenhouse gas production is down 7 percent.
That’s a goal the city is meeting two years earlier than it had hoped, admittedly aided by a declining economy that took vehicles off the street and pushed down energy consumption, but also a sign of steps the city has taken, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels says. Read the city’s report here.
Reporting on the Nickel’s determined drive to push the city meet the international Kyoto Protocol capping carbon dioxide and other gases after the Bush administration backed off, Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch writes of challenges to come. The biggest issue remaining will be driving, with emissions from road vehicles rising 5.5 percent in the past three years. Most of the growth in emissions came from commercial truck traffic. Still, the city sees reasons for optimism.
“The encouraging news is that on a per-capita basis it [transportation] is going in the other direction,” said Jill Simmons, senior climate-policy adviser for the city. City officials also said recent efforts to boost transit, build walkable neighborhoods, make parking more expensive and add bike lanes will help get more people out of their cars in coming years.
The city is measuring its greenhouse gas emissions every three years in three categories — homes, commercial buildings and heavy industry. Big reductions have come as consumers have moved away from oil heat and as Seattle City Light has invested in renewable energy.
But overall emissions have actually increased slightly since 2005 — the first year the city conducted a thorough audit of its greenhouse-gas pollution — thanks to population growth, new development and at least one particularly cold winter.
Nickels set an example for other mayors with his independent adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, and his establishment of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection agreement. Since then, 1,000 other mayors have followed his example. The outgoing Seattle mayor is headed to the Copenhagen climate summit this weekend, a culmination of his two terms as mayor and a bittersweet cap to his recent ouster at the polls.
— Rita Hibbard