No 31, Posted by fw, July 4, 2010
As a Canadian living in Windsor, Ontario, I rarely see an article on community sustainability or resilience by any of our city councillors in any prominent national or even regional magazines, never mind in an activist voice of the people. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing one.
Imagine my excited delight when I discovered just such a piece, published in an activist magazine, by an American city councillor, on plans to decarbonize a major US city. Richard Conlin, heads the Seattle City Council, which is responsible for overseeing Seattle’s effort to “become the first carbon neutral city in the United States.”
In a concise and coherent 718-word article, published in the renowned Yes! Magazine, Conlin writes:
“Before the City Council can develop a work plan for a carbon (climate) neutral Seattle, we have to determine where our carbon emissions actually come from. This is actually a tough question. It is easy to point at particular sources and agree that they lead to carbon emissions (like coal plants or automobile exhaust pipes). It’s also easy to agree that reducing these sources would be a good thing.”
“But if you are aiming at a truly carbon neutral city, it is important to understand how much carbon comes from different sources. Only with that understanding will we be able to both set priorities for action—and know that what we are doing actually addresses the whole spectrum of critical issues. Of course, even if you have correctly identified the carbon sources that you must deal with, there can still be difficult and challenging discussions about what the best strategy is to actually achieve the reduction goal—but that is the topic for future posts. The science of inventorying carbon emissions has made great progress over the last few years. Seattle has been on the cutting edge of that science, and we completed a review of our emissions in 2005 and updated it in 2008. With one major caveat, the issue of embedded carbon in products, this inventory provides excellent guidance for our work.”
Conlin goes on to identify the primary sources of Seattle’s carbon emissions: virtually negligible from hydro-electric power generation; 62% from transportation sources; 21% from buildings; and 17% from industry, down 30% from 1990 levels. Conlin concludes:
“So what are the key lessons from this accounting? Transportation is our biggest carbon issue—but that means a lot more than automobiles. There is still a huge opportunity in the built environment. And we need a more sophisticated approach to industrial emissions if we are going to honestly achieve our carbon goals.”
Conlin’s exemplary article inspired me to action. I fired off this email to my Windsor city councillor:
“Hi Councillor — Re the excellent article pasted below by the president of Seattle’s City Council, does Windsor have anything similar to this kind of report?It’s inspiring to see a city councillor writing this kind of article for a very popular citizen activist magazine. Hope to hear from you soon. All the best, Frank & Helga.”
I’ll let you know if we get a response.
For the complete article by Conlin, click on Where Do Our Carbon Emissions Come From Anyway? published in Yes! Magazine.