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Climate Change

photo of modern building at sunset

District Government is to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 30% by 2020

View the Climate of Opportunity Draft Action Plan

What will a changing climate mean for each of us in the District of Columbia? How can we ensure that the District remains the economic engine for our area and the place where people want to live and businesses want to grow? Records show that our average temperatures and water levels are rising, and recent history shows just how much extreme weather can affect our daily lives. Climate change means our city faces a range of challenges.

But climate change can have another meaning as well: opportunity. Planning for climate change means identifying opportunities to live and work more efficiently and working aggressively to create jobs and strengthen the local economy. For current residents, institutions and businesses, there are opportunities to save money and become more efficient consumers of energy and water. As new markets grow for renewable energy, alternative fuel vehicles, and high efficiency buildings, additional opportunities are created for new jobs and businesses.

For the past year, agencies across the District Government have been working to measure the District's "carbon footprint"-the amount of greenhouse gases we generate each year-and to draft a plan with specific targets and actions to reduce our emissions.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (discussed further below) revealed that the District's greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 totaled 10.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) - 18 tons CO2e for each District resident. This value is lower than the national average of 19.6 CO2e per capita, but higher than many other cities (see Figure ES.1). The inventory also showed that operations of the District of Columbia Government accounted for 6% of the total emissions for the District, or 720,000 metric tons of CO2e.

bar chart comparison of greenhouse gas emissions

 Our draft plan focuses on reducing these emissions and will begin an open, public engagement to help refine just what your District Government can do, and just what the city's businesses and residents can do to create a cooler, greener, healthier and more efficient city for the 21st Century. We have identified a range of progressive practices and leadership, within government and across the city, to make the District a climate leader for the region and the nation.

To lead by example, and to capitalize on the many benefits of energy efficiency and climate protection, the District Government is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% (below 2006 levels) by 2012, 30% by 2020, and 80% by 2050 (see Figure ES.4).

line chart showing forecast of emission growth

A Strong Foundation of Progress

Despite higher emissions than some comparison cities, the District, like other urban centers, enjoys many advantages and opportunities to achieve greater efficiency. Dense development, availability of mass transit, and walkable neighborhoods inherently support our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The District's Climate Action Plan should take advantage of the opportunities presented by our urban infrastructure to ensure efficiency gains.

The District has in place a number of progressive policies and programs that are already reducing energy use and promoting renewable energy and alternative transportation, lowering our emissions of greenhouse gases. These policies have elevated the District to the top of many measures of urban sustainability.

  • The Green Building Act, Clean and Affordable Energy Act, and 2008 Construction Codes set the stage for greening our buildings, which are tied to 74% of our city's greenhouse gases emissions. Thanks to strong adoption by the private sector, the District has more LEED and Energy Star certified buildings than any city our size and some of the most progressive energy codes.
  • Green roofs keep buildings more comfortable and save energy while also helping to retain and treat stormwater. The District has one of the highest green roof square footages in the country, which are helping to keep the city cool, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improving building efficiency.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently recognized the District a national leader (third among cities nationwide) in purchasing renewable power. The city's renewable portfolio standard, which will require all power sold into the city to be 20% renewable by 2020, and the renewable energy incentive program is funding 200 residential and business photovoltaic installations each year.
  • Perhaps Washington's strongest legacy of environmental stewardship is in the acceptance and use of sustainable transportation. Thirty-nine percent of residents commute by mass transit and more than a third of households-37%-do not even own cars. Car-sharing, fleet-sharing by the District Government and bike sharing are all expanding and will allow us to be less and less reliant on fossil fuel and further decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

It is time that all of us recognize this city's great strides to become a sustainability leader and commit to working together to be the greenest city in the nation. Each green school and office, car and bike share trip, green or solar roof installed represents the District's commitment to energy efficiency, saving money, and creating a greenest, most livable city for us all.

More information on the climate engagement process can be optained through climate.plan@dc.gov, or by calling 202-535-2600.

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