Olympia's greenhouse gas emissions drop by 4.7%


Community-wide emissions in Olympia had decreased by 4.7% between 2019 and 2021, Climate Programs Director Dr. Pamela Braff announced on Tuesday, September 19, when she gave an overview of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory and Carbon Wedge Analysis during the city council study session.

In 2022, Olympia worked with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) Local Governments for Sustainability to calculate the city's science-based target (SBT) based on 2019 emissions. Olympia's SBT is a 59% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

SBT represents each community's contribution to the global effort outlined in the Paris Agreement. The agreement aims to prevent global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by half by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Braff said ICLEI, which created tools and resources to help local governments achieve their sustainability goals, did much of the analysis with the help of the city staff who led the data collection.

In doing the inventory, Braff added that they used the U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions (USCP), a nationally accepted method of calculating emissions at a community-wide scale. It calculates emissions based on activities occurring within the city, such as transportation, energy use, waste production, and electricity emissions.

In her presentation, Braff showed a table reflecting that Olympia has a total emission of 616,793 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e).

The climate director claimed Olympia's largest source of emissions was from transportation, which makes up 34%, or 206,928 MTCO2e, of 2021 GHG emissions. The next two significant sources were commercial energy, contributing 27% or 167,891 MTCO2e, and residential energy, 22% or 133,869 MTCO2e.

Other sectors' emissions are the following:

  • Upstream Impacts – 75,662 MTCO2e or 12%
  • Solid Waste – 16,645 MTCO2e or 3%
  • Industrial energy – 12,940 MTCO2e or 2%
  • Process and Fugitive – 2,594 MTCO2e or 0.5%
  • Water and Wastewater – 264 MTCO2e or 0.5%

Braff pointed out that the 4.7% decline in emissions may not represent a sustained reduction. The decline was influenced by decreased commercial kilowatt hours per job, reduced vehicle miles traveled (TMV) per person, and changes in the electricity fuel mix. "Our electricity being provided by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is getting cleaner each year. That contributes to significant decreases in our emissions."

She emphasized that reduction occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused temporary changes in emissions due to lockdowns and decreased economic activity.

While the overall emissions decreased, Braff noted they also saw some increases from certain activities. Some of that can be attributed to population growth and warmer summers between 2019 and 2021.

36% reduction by 2050

Braff said the “business as usual” forecast predicted a 36% reduction in emissions by 2050 due to state policies and standards, such as increasing the use of renewable energy, changes in federal fuel efficiency standards, and shifts in the carbon intensity of the electric grid based on Washington State's renewable energy standard.

However, she pointed out that the 36% reduction is lower than Olympia's net-zero emissions target by 2050 and lower than the city's interim 2030 goals – 45% below 2015 levels.

"That could look great. That [36%] is much better than where we are today…We should acknowledge that also know there's much more to do to achieve the city's goals," Braff said. She proposed a climate strategy for Olympia to combat climate change, which consists of two key actions.

The first action is accelerating efforts to achieve science-based targets, which involves decarbonizing the electric grid, increasing building electrification and efficiency, transitioning to electric vehicles, and reducing VMT. The second action involves supporting policies that promote nature-based solutions.

The climate director introduced two scenarios called “moderate reduction” and “aggressive reduction.” These focused on accelerating actions. She presented slides that outlined recommended actions for both scenarios.

The moderate scenario aims to reduce emissions by 93% by 2050, and the aggressive scenario focuses on an 88% reduction by 2040.

Climate Programs Director Dr. Pamela Braff gave an overview of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory and Carbon Wedge Analysis during the Olympia City Council study session on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.
Climate Programs Director Dr. Pamela Braff gave an overview of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory and Carbon Wedge Analysis during the Olympia City …


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  • FordPrefect

    Play stupid games…

    We’ve been reliably informed that dozens of essentially empty buses driving around town all day at 6-8 mpg is part of a green, sustainable future. I also hope the EV crowd feels smug when they charge their batteries made of materials dug up by slave labor half a world away. Meanwhile, most of our power comes from a coal plant 20 miles south and a natural gas facility over in Satsop. The wind turbines on the distant southern ridge make us feel better though…. just don’t look too closely at the base of those towers, one might find a significant number of dead birds. Bald eagles (or many other large birds) and turbine blades don’t play well together.

    No, no… Let’s pat ourselves on the back for a feeble drop in a nebulous figure with no mention of error bars or methods. The good news is that somebody, somewhere is making money on all this. Great job Oly, we’re crushing it!

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this

  • FordPrefect

    Digging in ICLEI’s website reveals pages of nonspecific statements that read as though you asked ChatGPT to write an essay on sustainability. Go more than one level deep and you find paywalls, subscriptions, and fees for applications and examinations. So we plebeians can’t see the methods unless we kiss the ring. Just how much did our city spend to have its climate fortune told?

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this

  • FordPrefect

    Let’s play a game…

    Go to ICLEI.org and find a single statement or paragraph that contains ANY substantive or quantifiable information.

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    What warmer summers? The climate data from the National Weather Service shows that the temperature over the last 4 summers (and more) has very rarely been out of the norm.

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this

  • ConservativeHippie

    FordPrefect is everyone's favorite character.

    "nebulous figure" best and most accurate phrase.

    How's China doing on their climate impact initiatives? Oh that's right, still listed as an emerging economy, and mining and making our "green" energy. Logic question: If we transfer carbon load manufacturing out of a regulated market to an unregulated market, is that a positive or negative global climate impact?

    On the same online pages on the same day is a climate tour to tear down dams. Makes sense right? Right? RIGHT?

    Wake up. They have turned well-meaning good people into influence bots pushing profit and war, not environmentalism.

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Climate change is a hoax.

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this

  • WA_Mojo

    Did Dr. Braff factor in all of the carbon that Olympia’s bums emit thru their tendency to set things on fire?

    Friday, September 22, 2023 Report this