Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead
Collaboration to Reduce Carbon Emissions
Along with most major cities around the world, the City of Houston is taking steps to respond and adapt to climate change. Cities in coastal areas are especially challenged by sea level rise as well as changing weather patterns. Severe storms and flooding that have struck the region in recent years underscore the urgency of implementing effective climate action and resilience strategies. Houston is developing its first community-wide Climate Action Plan (CAP) to define a path forward to reduce carbon emissions. The stated goal of the CAP is carbon neutrality by 2050. The target completion date for the plan is December 2019.
With the goal of “Carbon Neutral by 2050” guiding objectives in the planning process are efficiency, cost savings, and quality of life for residents. As the City and its citizens consider practices and technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, social equity is the lens through which solutions are considered. The City recognizes the co-benefits associated with climate action planning. These can include decreased traffic and roadway congestion, improved air quality, better access to parks and green spaces, and cost savings through energy efficiency projects. Stakeholder meetings and outreach events have occurred throughout this process. For more information and to view materials from stakeholder meetings visit the City’s CAP Events tab.
The plan will specifically address three major sources of carbon emissions. From the City of Houston’s Green Houston Website:
The CAP development process is structured to focus on the three greatest sources of carbon emissions in the City. In 2014 Houston emitted 34.3 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Houston’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are transportation (47%) and commercial and residential buildings (49%). Other sources of emissions include manufacturing, waste, and fugitive emissions (4%). Overall, Houston’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since 2007, primarily due to increases in residential energy efficiency and more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power being built. However, since 2007 emissions associated with transportation have increased.
Starting in February, working groups began to identify and assess programs and policies to help the city become carbon neutral. The working groups were made up of members from communities, businesses, environmental groups, and technical experts. The members participated in four working groups, grid decarbonization, building optimization (energy efficiency), transportation and solid waste management. Each working group examines issues and solutions related to a major source, and what the City can do to reduce carbon emissions.
The City is partnering with HARC and C40. HARC serves as the technical advisor and research leader on the project. Directed by a team including Dr. Gavin Dillingham, Marina Badoian-Kriticos, and Dr. Meredith Jennings researchers will provide expertise and modeling to support development of the most effective climate mitigation measures in the region. HARC’s ongoing work on matters of regional resilience provide a context for these efforts.
C40 is a global network of the world’s largest cities committed to addressing climate change. C40 supports cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge, and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change. For more information and to see how Houston compares to other cities, visit C40 Cities.
The plan is funded by CenterPoint Energy and the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation. Learn more about the plan by visiting City of Houston’s Climate Action Plan website. Comment on the CAP and subscribe for email updates by visiting Green Houston.