Remarks made at City Council Meeting on August 17, 2010
The results provided in the 2009 Climate Status Report are encouraging. The report shows that last year, community-wide greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 3.2% with respect to 2005 levels, even without taking renewable energy credits or carbon offsets into account. This percentage decrease means that Ft. Collins has met the 2012 target established by council in 2008 three years early. This is an accomplishment we can all be proud of. It also means that we are on track to meet or exceed the 2020 goal of a 20% decrease in emissions with respect to 2005 levels.
There are just a couple of caveats to this good news. The report includes a graph that shows greenhouse gas emissions declining in 2008 as both population and regional gross domestic product, or GDP, increased. However, no GDP data is provided for 2009. If it turns out that regional GDP decreased in 2009, that would take a bit of the shine off the 2009 emissions decrease. Additionally, we note that the United States Energy Information Agency, or EIA, reported a 7% decline in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 to 2009. So to some extent, Ft. Collins may be benefiting from nation-wide trends, such as improving automotive efficiencies.
Clearly, the City of Ft. Collins should not rest on its laurels in this area. Assuming that the economic recovery continues, there will be upwards pressure placed on greenhouse gas emissions associated both with direct energy use and with solid waste generation. And climate scientists have been telling us for several years now that we need to do significantly better than the 20% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2020 contemplated by local and state governments, as well as by many in Congress.
The Ft. Collins Sustainability Group believes that there are two areas in which the city should move forward aggressively to keep greenhouse gas emissions on a downward trajectory. Tiered residential electric rates, which reward conservation and discourage waste, have been shown to be effective in reducing community electric energy use. And Ft. Collins should also continue to work towards diverting 50% of its solid waste from the landfill. Banning cardboard from the commercial waste stream for recycling and requiring trash haulers to provide yard waste collection for composting would be good next steps in this area. None of these measures would have a significant fiscal impact on the City, and each would provide significant ancillary benefits. We encourage the City Council to implement these measures as soon as possible.