Seattle Unveils Net Zero Emissions Climate Action Plan

Seattle has unveiled an ambitious Climate Action Plan that has an ultimate goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, otherwise known as "carbon neutral."

The Action Plan says:

"Climate change is not a stand-alone issue separate from the other issues cities face. It is rooted in land use, transportation, and building energy patterns that have evolved over generations. Therefore, the 2013 Climate Action Plan provides a coordinated strategy and long-term vision for action that cuts across City functions. The strategy focuses on City actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting other community goals, including building vibrant neighborhoods, fostering economic prosperity, and enhancing social equity. In addition, it includes actions that will help us prepare for the likely impacts of climate change.

Residents who can meet many of their daily needs by walking, bicycling, or riding transit also benefit from lower overall household costs, improved health, thriving local business districts, and increased opportunities for housing and jobs. The city’s economy also benefits from reduced fossil fuel use in the transportation system. In 2011, Washington’s petroleum consumption drained nearly $15 billion out of the state economy, more than $2,000 per person. Money spent on cars and gasoline creates less than half as many local jobs as money spent on other goods and services."

Seattle is expected to attract over 100,000 new residents and 100,000 new jobs over the next 20 years – if this growth followed traditional with car-dominated land use and transportation patterns, there literally wouldn’t be enough room for them in the city.  

The plans focuses on three areas that can have the greatest impact: road transportation, energy use in buildings, and waste, which together account for the majority of local emissions.

It’s a long list of everything you’d expect in a good plan, from building out its light rail system and prioritizing walking and biking, to requiring energy audits when homes are sold. We all know how to create such plans now, the devil is in the implementation and funding for that.

It has developed Master Plans for Transit, Bicycle, Pedestrian and Freight and congestion pricing will be among the funding sources.

The Action Plan has two timetables – initiatives to implement by 2015 and by 2030.

These actions build on what Seattle has been doing for decades as an environmental leader. From 1990-2008, Seattle’s population grew 16%, yet per capita greenhouse gas emissions from road transportation dropped 4%, and the city recycles 54% of its garbage. 

Former Mayor Greg Nickels, who in 2005 urged US mayors to adopt the Kyoto Protocol when the Bush administration refused – and 1,050 cities did – now has another goal.

The idea of exporting coal from the Northwest is "one of the top five climate-destroying projects on the planet," he told the Seattle Times. Stopping that plan "is one of the things the city can do to make a difference on a global scale."
The city is also divesting from fossil fuels investments.

Here’s the plan:

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