COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Climate Change Protection/Cool Counties Participation
Review climate protection program progress to date and discuss a proposed strategy and timeline for moving forward
Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Shadman, and
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
February 6, 2008
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
This Executive Summary and presentation to the Board of Supervisors on February 6 serve as an update to the Board on staff’s progress with respect to environmental initiatives, with a focus on implementing a climate protection program.
Protect Natural Resources
Efforts made towards climate change protection also help protect natural resources. For example, protecting open spaces helps discourage sprawl, reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Enhance Quality of Life
A climate protection program will enhance the quality of life for residents in a number of ways. Lowering the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere will directly improve air quality, having a positive influence on human health. Preserving open spaces has both aesthetic and recreational value for residents.
Fund the Future
In addition to environmental benefits, many of the projects and programs designed to deter climate change will reduce operational costs and save the County money over time. For example, the operational costs of LEED certified buildings are much lower than conventional buildings.
Climate Change as a Critical Issue
In order to fully understand why climate change is a critical issue, it is important to be familiar with the science of climate change. The Earth’s climate consists of a delicate balance of naturally-occurring gases that trap the sun’s heat near the Earth’s surface. This naturally-caused “greenhouse effect” keeps the Earth’s temperature stable. The problem we face today is that this natural balance has been disrupted by the production of large amounts of additional greenhouse gases (GHG), which are causing the climate to warm. Two GHG in particular – carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are particularly harmful due to the large volumes produced by the burning of fossil fuels (CO2), and methane emitted from landfills. There is growing scientific consensus that anthropogenic global warming is occurring. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), pre-industrial levels of CO2 were 270-280 pars per million (ppm) in the atmosphere, whereas today the level of C02 is roughly 368 ppm – about 30% higher. Even the slightest increase in global temperature can cause significant changes in climate patterns, resulting in more extreme, frequent weather events, glacier melting, floods, mudslides, and droughts.
In an effort to be proactive, over 122 nations have signed the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The agreement requires participating nations to reduce GHG emissions to 7% below 1990 levels. In part due to the U.S. not ratifying the Protocol, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels drafted the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and has urged cities and counties across the U.S. to pledge to reduce GHG emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Many other programs have also emerged, including the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities campaign, and Cool Counties. With the adoption of the Cool Counties Stabilization Declaration, Albemarle County recognizes the urgent responsibility we have to lead by example and strategically respond to this critical issue.
A Proposed Strategy
In order to address the Board’s recent adoption of the U.S. Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, it is recommended that existing staff begin working on a climate protection program. Staff believes the first part of implementation is achievable with current resources and may take some time to complete. Further discussion on next steps will be planned in the year ahead after more analysis is complete.
In the meantime, staff recommends that the County follow the milestones outlined in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) “5 Milestone Process”, which are consistent with the Cool Counties Policies and Programs Template. The milestones are:
1) Conduct a baseline emissions inventory
2) Set a target for greenhouse gas reduction
3) Establish a Local Action Plan
4) Implement the Local Action Plan
5) Assess, Report, and Modify the Local Action Plan
See Attachment B – Proposed Strategy and Timeline for a detailed explanation of each milestone, in addition to a proposed timeline for Albemarle County to achieve these goals.
Examples of Climate Protection Efforts
Policies, programs and projects developed and implemented as part of climate protection plans generally fall in the categories of land use planning, transportation planning, energy efficiency, green power, green building, recycling and waste reduction, and education and outreach. See Attachment C– Examples of Climate Protection Efforts for a detailed list of examples of what localities across the U.S. have done towards climate protection in these various areas.
Staff estimates that the long term resource needs for implementing a climate protection program can be broken down into 1) an eventual additional full-time employee and 2) an estimated budget range for implementing a Local Action Plan. See Attachment D – Budget Estimate for a budget impact estimate for the next five years (FY09-FY13).
Staff recommends that the Board approve staff moving forward with implementation of a climate protection program by pursuing the plan outlined in the Discussion Section above and in Attachment B – Proposed Strategy and Timeline.
Attachment A – U.S. Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration
Attachment B – Proposed Strategy and Timeline
Attachment C – Examples of Climate Protection Efforts
Attachment D – Budget Estimate
Return to regular agenda