Some towns and cities take on greenhouse gas emissions

Smaller cities can take steps to make a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Minneapolis Greenhouse Gases by Sector, 2006“Minneapolis has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.8 percent since 2006, putting the city on pace to meet longer-term goals designed to confront climate change,” Bill McAuliffe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, said.  Actually, Minneapolis adopted its Climate Action Plan in 1989. According to the city’s sustainability program coordinator, there are other factors that influenced the city’s reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions –such as job losses, population decline and mild weather. 

Is a city trying to influence global warming a global trend? It turns out that a city the size of Minneapolis puts out a significant amount of greenhouse gas each year. In 2006, the city estimated some 5,754,000 MtCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) including 33,300 MtCO2e from city government operations alone, about two percent of the total for the city. The methodology for these estimates isn’t controversy-free, but there is a recommended software package.

Minneapolis and sister city St. Paul, Minn. are among over 1,000 communities nationally whose mayors and chief officers that have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, including 31 in Michigan.

It’s not that the city or township has any authority to mandate industrial or residential reduction in GHG emissions. Rather, the agreement is a commitment to:

  1. Call for action at the state and national level.
  2. Develop a plan for reducing local emissions according to levels called for in the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement not ratified by the U.S. Congress.

The plans should mandate that local government monitor emissions in its jurisdiction and use land, planning and advocacy to encourage energy efficiency. To achieve these goals cities should:

  • Reducing sprawl, preserving open space and creating compact, walkable communities.
  • Promoting alternative transportation, such as bicycle trails and car-pooling
  • Promoting sustainable building practices using U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program
  • Recovering methane from landfills and using only Energy Star compliant appliances in city operations.

There is also an educational commitment to help make the population aware of energy efficient practices.

So, you say, fine for a big city like Minneapolis, what about small Michigan towns? Check out the City of Saline, Mich. (pop. 8,810) Non-motorized Transportation Plan. It plans for a bicycle and walking path network and related facility development. According to Todd Campbell, Saline city manager, using a county grant and its own resources, Saline, Mich. is marking out bike lanes on streets and will connect a park and an area-wide trail with its library and downtown this spring. The city also has two farmers’ markets including a new winter market that means virtually year around service.

One of the central ideas of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement is that, little or large, it all adds up to make a larger difference. As Campbell says,” We think we’re doing our part.”

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