Climate change comes home
At the COP21 climate summit in Paris in December, 195 nations committed to limiting warming to no more than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. And because cities account for more than half of the world’s population, 70 percent of energy consumption and over 80 percent of economic activity, this burden weighs heavily on municipal governments.
Reno is no exception. Though it’s easy to think of local jurisdiction ending at city limits, the City of Reno has a broader perspective.
“At the city government level where [people] live, where they work, where they play, where they learn—that’s where we’re starting to see the innovation,” said Lynne Barker, Reno’s new sustainability manager.
According to Barker, cities are “advancing some of the leading edge technologies around sustainable development.” As one of the pioneers for Seattle’s green building boom, Barker is well-versed in helping cities comply with sustainable development protocols and national performance standards. Such skills come in handy for a city that has committed to half a dozen new sustainability resolutions in the past year, including national platforms like the Clean Power Plan, the Ozone Advance Program Partnership, and—most recently—the Compact of Mayors, a global coalition of 521 cities committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
It’s an aggressive sustainability platform, but given Reno’s latest distinction as “the fastest warming city in the U.S.”—handed down by research organization Climate Central—it’s necessarily aggressive. According to the report, Reno has been warming at a rate of 1.4°F per decade since the 1970s, putting the city on a path to climb 7°F over the next 50 years, should it go unchecked.
Of course, the first step in combating anything unchecked is simply to check it. As a requirement of the Compact of Mayors multi-phased plan, the city just completed its first-year inventory of GHG emissions. The results are what you’d expect. The largest percentage of GHG emissions—65 percent—flow into buildings from stationary power sources like refineries, factories and power plants. Transportation emissions come in at 29 percent, followed by solid waste and water in the single digits.
“In Phase 2, we’re also supposed to identify our climate-related risks and then create a risk mitigation plan,” said Barker. “That we have not done. … [I’d like to] see if we can go after a federal grant to assess our climate related risks for this area.”
After risks are identified, Phase 3 focuses on developing a comprehensive action plan to reach the city’s Kyoto-Protocol-modeled target of 80 percent GHG emissions reduction by 2050. Phase 4 is compliance.
Between the phases, the warming and the inevitable emissions, locals are invited to sound off during public meetings and on the Reimagine Reno site.
“Stay tuned,” advised Councilman David Bobzien in a recent phone call. “There will be public meetings. There will be agendas and notices that go out.”