Regional Group Launches Work to Identify Promising Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies

Mar 17, 2015

A regional group convened by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to identify promising strategies for significantly reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions recently launched its work with a formal kick-off meeting on January 30. Over the next several months, the group will hold more detailed discussions and analyze potential emissions-reduction strategies.

The group, known as the Multi-Sector Working Group, consists of technical and policy staff from COG’s member jurisdictions, as well as state and regional agencies, who have expertise in one or more of the main sectors from which the region’s greenhouse gas emissions come — energy, transportation, land-use, and the built environment. COG convened the multi-sector group following a joint request by three of its policy committees, the Climate Energy and Environment Policy Committee (CEEPC) of the COG Board of Directors, the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC), and the Transportation Planning Board (TPB). The request reflects renewed interest by area officials in identifying actions that could help the region meet ambitious climate goals established by COG in 2008.

At its meeting on January 30, the group formalized its mission, the outcomes and deliverables for which it will be responsible, and the plan and schedule for completing its work. At the request of the three policy committees, the group is scheduled to provide an interim report on its findings by September 30 of this year.

Chief among the group’s charge is to identify viable, implementable actions that can be taken at local, regional, or state levels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the four key sectors. The group will analyze potential strategies and quantify benefits, co-benefits, costs, and implementation timeframes, and then jointly develop an action plan for the region. The group will also address whether there should be specific emissions-reduction goals or targets for each of the four sectors.

The consideration of co-benefits of potential emissions-reduction strategies is a key part of the group’s work. Such co-benefits could include things like reductions in ozone and other pollutants resulting from reduced energy generation, decreases in stormwater pollution from increased use of green roofs and more urban trees, and a reduced need for new landfill space from increased waste reduction, reuse, and recycling.

The work of the Multi-Sector Working Group will build on previous COG and TPB efforts to address energy use, climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2008, COG published its National Capital Region Climate Change Report, for the first time setting ambitious emissions-reduction goals for the region and outlining nearly 80 local, regional, and state actions that could be taken to reduce emissions. The report evaluated at a high level the costs and benefits of the strategies and led to the creation of CEEPC, which has regularly assessed the region’s progress toward these goals and provided oversight and direction for future regional emissions-reduction efforts. One of CEEPC’s top priorities has been the development of action plans containing dozens of implementable actions across many sectors.

COG member governments reaffirmed greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goals in 2010 with the adoption of the Region Forward Compact, which incorporated the Climate Change Report goals as part of its comprehensive vision for the National Capital Region. Region Forward also illustrated how a variety of land use, transportation, energy and other activities, like concentrating more development in the region’s mixed-use Activity Centers, expanding transportation choices, and adopting green building practices, would help advance the region’s climate goals.

Around that same time, the TPB carried out a study of potential transportation-sector contributions. The study — called What Would It Take?  — examined opportunities to reduce emissions through higher federal fuel efficiency standards, and local actions to make transit and other non-driving travel modes more attractive and to improve the operational efficiency of area roadways.

Since that study, the TPB has included forecasts of future CO2 emissions as part of its annual performance analysis of the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan.

In 2014, MWAQC released an update to its Gold Book, a compilation of programs and initiatives being implemented around the region for cleaner air. In addition to the many recommendations of the Climate Change Report, the action plans developed by CEEPC, and the TPB’s scenario work, the Gold Book for the first time highlighted the value of co-benefits of emissions-reduction strategies.

The next meeting of the entire work group is scheduled for May 8 to discuss initial strategies and co-benefits identified by subgroups from each sector. This spring and later in the year once a draft report is made available, the group will seek public input on its work.

A number of cities, states, and metropolitan areas have been ramping up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through actions that will enhance both quality of life and the economy. If the new COG work group is successful, it has a chance to map out additional cost-effective, coordinated actions to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants and help the Washington region shape a more prosperous, accessible, livable, and sustainable future.

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