EDMONDS — The city of Edmonds aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The new 2023 Edmonds Climate Action Plan is a 65-page document outlining a commitment “to a science-based target of 1.5 degree Celsius global temperature rise.” By offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and becoming net zero in the next 17 years, the plan could help Edmonds to do its part in the world.
The action plan has been in the works since December 2020, and the City Council anticipates having a final vote on March 21.
Back in 2010, the city developed its first climate action plan with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet as Edmonds planning and development director Susan McLaughlin pointed out, the city has “not kept pace” with its original goals. Moreover, in some metrics, emissions have gone up in the past decade, according to Edmonds City Climate Protection Committee.
“We cannot rely on the work that we have done in the past. It has not made a measurable difference in our data,” McLaughlin said. “That said, every past and present action does count toward behavior change and accountability. We should consider our past action as the training regime for the real race.”
Last year’s wildfires and news of deadly climate disasters worldwide highlight the urgency of climate action, said Nick Maxwell, a member of the city’s Planning Board. Technological improvements have also increased the benefits of switching to heat pumps and electric cars, and last year’s federal Inflation Reduction Act improved the financial payout of electrifying homes and vehicles, Maxwell explained.
In Edmonds, about 52% of carbon dioxide comes from residential, commercial and industrial buildings, with the biggest culprit being residential, according to the action plan. National studies show “that affluent households, those with incomes above $120,000, produce greenhouse gas emissions that are double those of households with and income between $40,000 and $80,000,” the action plan says.
After buildings, transportation accounts for the next 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The climate plan is divided into sectors, strategies, actions and metrics. For example, within the “buildings and energy” sector, the plan “supports legislation to require gas supply systems statewide to be carbon neutral by 2045,” among other strategies.
The City Council held a public hearing Tuesday about the plan. Several members of the public spoke in support. But some City Council members pushed the other way.
Council members Diane Buckshnis, Dave Teitzel and Vivan Olson questioned why the 2023 report didn’t include more of their achievements over the past decade. The trio listed victories regarding water movements in the Edmonds marsh and a series of sustainable projects such as the Taming Bigfoot projects, which aimed to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
Teitzel also questioned if building more multifamily housing could hinder these environmental goals, considering the trees that would need to be torn down for construction.
“It’s not comparable, to be honest with you,” McLaughlin said. “Let’s celebrate what we’ve done, but not see it as a crutch to now take bold action.” ^