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Climate Protection Action Plan

Five Milestones

In 2012, the City completed a multi-year project in collaboration with ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. The Campaign consisted of five actions that led to the development and implementation of Bellingham's Climate Protection Action Plan, which is now being updated.

Emissions Inventory and Forecast

In 2007, the City inventoried greenhouse gas emissions for the base year of 2000 and for the interim analysis year of 2005. Emissions from the entire community were calculated and specific attention was paid to municipal operations. In 2000, the Bellingham community emitted about 950,000 tons of carbon dioxide and by 2005 this climbed to more than 997,000 tons. Transportation accounted for the largest share of this pollution: 45% in 2000 and 42% in 2005. City government operations accounted for a little over 2% of this total: 19,945 tons of carbon dioxide in 2000 and 20,632 tons in 2005. Electricity use was the largest share of city government's contribution.

The inventory was intended as a tool to focus policy makers' and community attention on the areas with the largest room for improvement. By clearly delineating the scope and nature of the problem, we are able to direct our attention where efforts will have the most effect. See more about Bellingham's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory.

Staff also used population projections and Energy Information Administration forecasts to develop a business-as-usual forecast against which to measure the effect of future efforts.

Emissions Reduction Target

City Council approved a series of emissions reductions targets for municipal operations and for the entire community based on the findings of the emissions inventory, a survey of existing and possible measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a review of other community's targets, and Natural Resources staff recommendations. The adopted target for city government was substantial: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64% from 2000 levels by 2012 and by 70% by 2020.

Scientists believe emissions reductions on the order of 70-80% from current levels will be needed in order to stabilize the earth's atmosphere and reverse global warming. Achieving this target will demonstrate that success is possible. By buying green power, city government achieved pollution reductions equal to 83% of the 2012 goal.

For the community, staff recommended that Bellingham strive for reductions of 7% from 2000 levels by 2012 and 28% from 2000 levels by 2020. This will achieve the target reduction established by the international community in the Kyoto Protocol by 2020. These goals will not only define success, they will help drive us to achieve it. Emissions monitoring to determine our performance is now being completed. 

Climate Protection Action Plan 

To achieve these targets, a three-phase Action Plan (4,600K PDF) has been adopted. The Bellingham community has a strong environmental ethic, and there are numerous manifestations of that ethic already moving us towards our goals. Within municipal operations, energy efficiency has been an important part of the culture of municipal employees. The Action Plan is grounded in existing actions within the community and is intended primarily to direct city resources toward assisting and complimenting those efforts.

Phase I of the plan enumerates and quantifies existing actions that have been developed since the year 2000.

Phase II lays out actions that are clear next steps, and builds on existing momentum. Phase II is composed of 13 measures that impact the community as a whole and ten measures that will impact pollution created by municipal operations. There are also several proposals that will not have a direct impact on the amount of pollution we emit, but that will have an indirect effect by influencing the development of the ICLEI Cities for Climate Protection Program itself.

Phase III is focused on monitoring progress, proposing new emissions reduction measures, and planning for climate impacts and adaptation. Many of these actions will require broad community involvement and support.

Implement the Action Plan

Bellingham has begun to implement many of the actions in the adopted Action Plan.

Monitor and Verify Results

Monitoring and verifying progress on the implementation of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be an ongoing process. Continuous monitoring provides important feedback that can be used to improve measures over time and demonstrate overall progress toward established emissions reduction targets.