Note: This article was originally published in the April 2002 issue of Democratic Energy.
In April 2002 the city of Seattle completed a greenhouse gas inventory, the first step towards meeting their goals for greenhouse gas reductions. The news was good for the city owned properties – carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions were down 48 percent from 1990 to 2000 and projections put the city at 84 percent below 1990 by the year 2010. The reason for the big drop is primarily due to Seattle City Light cutting its ties to a coal-fired power plant in favor of electricity from wind and hydro power.
The news wasn’t so good for the Seattle area as a whole. When households and businesses are included in the equation, citywide emissions were essentially the same in 2000 as they were in 1990, around 7 million metric tons (tonnes) C02 equivalent. But by 2010, citywide emissions are expected to grow nearly 20 percent to 8.2 million tonnes. City wide, cars are the number one source of greenhouse gases, followed by natural gas for residential heating and industry uses, airplanes and diesel powered engines.
In mid 2001, Seattle adopted two resolutions that committed the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first required an inventory and projection of emissions in 2010 to be followed up with a plan to reduce emissions from within its borders by 7-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. The city council, acting as the Board of Directors of the city-owned utility, Seattle City Light committed the utility to a policy of no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2003 and is expected to sign its first contract for carbon offsets in the next month or so.
The City’s plan and strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not scheduled to be completed until mid-2002. In the meantime the city continues a number of programs that it expects will contribute to further reductions until a more formal plan is adopted. One such program is the Seattle City Light’s Neighborhood Power Project, a strategy to deliver conservation and resource management services to targeted neighborhoods in the City of Seattle.