Baltimore city pursues climate action plan


It is 2020. You turn on the TV and scrolling at the bottom of your screen is a message: “STORM WATCH … FLOOD WATCH.” You panic. Why? Because your house is 8 feet above what was determined to be the flood risk height when your building was constructed. But as the sea level has risen this past decade, the cherished belongings you keep on the first floor of your residence have been at an increasingly greater risk of being destroyed.

Not if Baltimore City’s Office of Sustainability has anything to do about it, said its director Beth Strommen

At the GBC’s Built Environment and Sustainability committee meeting March 28, Strommen and sustainability coordinator Alice Kennedy outlined their Climate Action Plan, part of a larger sustainability plan developed in 2009 that looks at strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions community-wide and in city government.

As nature causes bigger and more frequent storms and blasts the city with ferocious heat waves, greenhouse gas emissions are seen as a major culprit in the rise in sea levels, increased traffic congestion and increased costs to consumers. Therefore a large target has been placed on reducing their effects so that residents-from-the-future don’t need to be alarmed when a storm approaches.

After much research, comparisons with other states and consultations as to projected numbers, the Office decided on a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015 as part of their sustainability plan. The Climate Action Plan will have different goals, in the short term by 2020 and a long-term goal of 2030, though specific percentage points have not been decided upon.

Reducing emissions will increase efficiencies and monetary savings as well as reduce costs, traffic congestion and rolling brownouts, said Kennedy. The Climate Action Plan focuses on five action areas where improvements can be made to help meet these goals: building energy, transportation and land use, green infrastructure, water and waste.

Measureable changes in energy use, water consumption, waste diversion, transportation mode and amount of green space as well as unquantifiable measures such as education and outreach will define the success of their plan, Strommen and Kennedy said.

Building and facility energy is seen as one of the larger action items due to the high volume of emissions — both community-wide and in government-owned properties — that contribute to the problem. Sixty-six percent of emissions in the community inventory are the result of energy consumption in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, especially in buildings built in 1939 or earlier, meaning there are enormous opportunities for building retrofits to improve efficiency.

Early successes with the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge have demonstrated that focusing on attacking these can noticeably reduce emissions resulting from building energy. The Office of Sustainability saw an average reduction of 6.6 percent in emissions in residents participating in the program and as much as 12.8 percent from their highest-improvement-rating town, Park Heights.

As important as the Office of Sustainability knows reducing emissions is, it looks at the extensive research to find the most efficient, realistic solution while also not creating barriers to development and being sensitive to other considerations, which is why they have been active in eliciting private-sector involvement through their advisory communities and encourage anyone to attend a town hall meeting to express their support or concerns.

If residents fear looking at a storm watch scroll during a newscast 10 years from now and not knowing what will become of their home or business, Strommen and Kennedy want to know about it and they want you to know they are working toward a solution with CAP.

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