GUEST COLUMN: Erie County Leads The Way In Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Modified: February 13, 2018 11:55am

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On June 1, 2017 the federal government announced its intention to withdraw from the international Paris Climate Agreement, a historic compact that 195 countries entered into in 2015 to address the mitigation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The Agreement marked a turning point in raising global awareness about climate change and garnering international support for efforts to reduce pollution and promote green energy policies. The United States now stands alone in the world as the only country outside of the Agreement, an unthinkable position given the enormity of our economy, our traditional role of global leadership, and our concurring ability to effect positive change. Pretending that climate change does not exist is not an option, and the federal withdrawal from this critical partnership indicates both weak governance and myopic decision making at the worst possible time.

While Washington may ignore reality in Erie County we are taking action and leading the way to better energy choices. On June 2, 2017 I issued my seventeenth Executive Order in response to the federal decision, directing county departments to prepare a report to implement a plan of action for Erie County to meet the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement by 2025. That report, the product of a working group formed to identify strategies for the county to meet the target goals set out by the Agreement, is now complete and can be read at the Erie County website. The report’s findings are encouraging and show that while Erie County government is making significant strides in reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions, the county can also play a lead role in community-wide reduction efforts.

The report is titled “Erie County Commits to Paris: How Erie County Can Meet U.S. Target Reductions for Greenhouse Gas Emissions” and identifies the greenhouse gas emission inventory for the Paris Climate Agreement baseline year of 2005 for both Erie County government and the community at large, as well as for 2014, the most recent year with complete data. The report found that compared to the baseline year of 2005, Erie County as a government had already reduced its greenhouse gas emission usage by 26% in 2014, thereby meaning Erie County has met the goal of a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions usage as required by the Agreement. The report also found that the Erie County community at large saw a 12% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions usage in 2014 compared to the baseline year of 2005.

The report outlines a wide variety of projects and recommendations for the County to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals, which currently are focused primarily on internal operations. However, Erie County’s operations amount to only 0.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions across the county, so community participation is crucial for greater results and the report contains a number of policies, partnerships and strategies to mitigate climate change across the community. We all have a role to play in creating a cleaner, healthier future for our children and Erie County is leading the way.