Futurewise is hosting a brown bag on Wednesday about Seattle’s Carbon-Neutrality goals:

Seattle Carbon Neutral Initiative: Innovations for Station Areas and Town Centers

Speakers: Seattle Council Member Mike OBrien and Seattle Planning Commission Executive Director Barbara Wilson

Date/Time: Wednesday, November 17th, Noon-1:15

Place: GGLO Space atthe Steps, 1301 First Avenue, Seattle(Enter from Harbor Steps)map

Description: Earlier this year, the Seattle City Council set the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030kicking off an ongoing process to define both the goal and the policy tools to get the city there. Come hear from Council Member Mike OBrien, who spearheaded a six-month volunteer-led effort to examinecarbon neutrality through the lens of various sectors, including land use, energy, and transportation. Then hear fromSeattle Planning Commission Executive Director Barbara Wilson on their new publication Transit Station Communities and its policy implications on both carbon emission reduction and creation of livable neighborhoods.

I wonder if the tunnel will come up?

In all seriousness, I think “carbon neutrality” in the context of a unit as small as a City is a pretty sketchy concept, but thinking seriously about our major emissions sources can’t help but reduce our impact, and if done intelligently can actually improve our economic and fiscal position.

17 Replies to “Carbon Neutrality Brown Bag”

  1. Not sure what you mean by ‘I think “carbon neutrality” in the context of a unit as small as a City is a pretty sketchy concept.’ Isn’t this like saying that “recycling in the context of a unit as small as a household is a pretty sketchy concept”?

    1. In a word, no. If a carbon-belching factory moves from Seattle to Tukwila, does that make the city more carbon-neutral?

      Of course, that particular example can be scaled up to the national level, and isn’t an excuse to take no action. However, the frictions involved in crossing the city line are particularly small.

      1. Making the city government itself, which can’t move across the border, carbon-neutral would make some sense, though. And that includes the road-building department, since the roads also can’t be moved across the border….

      2. I have a similar comment to Rich’s: What additional issues would a city have that a country wouldn’t have in summing their carbon footprint? I would think few to none. And if it’s not worth the effort to make countries carbon neutral, then we’re in really big trouble.

        I get your point about friction involved in moving factories, but the incentives would have to reach a very high level to get a factory to relocate – I just don’t see that happening any time soon. The one example I can think of where city might not be able to affect change would be gasoline prices, since it’s easy to drive to another city to fill up – but that’s just one tool we’d lose, and seems like a fairly minor point to be giving up the battle over.

    2. One person recycling doesn’t make any difference, of course. But it becomes a habit that others imitate, and over time you get a million people recycling which does make a difference. If those early adopters hadn’t started it a couple decades earlier, those millions wouldn’t be doing it now.

  2. I wonder if the required off street parking for small businesses will come up. Until Seattle gets serious about making the neighborhoods multi use, this is just poking about the edges.

    I bet the parking rate rise does come up. The auto drivers are already howling about this being used to subsidize the bike lanes, bike boxes, and sharrows.

  3. Tunnels don’t emit carbon dioxide. People emit carbon dioxide. (And so do cars, but only because there are driving them.)

    Register bikers not cars.

    Oh, and where does all that electricity come from to power yer loot rail?

    1. “Oh, and where does all that electricity come from to power yer loot rail?”

      Why hydroelectricity, of course.

      1. You could just as easily claim it comes from coal too. As any electricity generated by the hydro plants in WA is sold on the open market. Therefore any that we don’t use is coal that is not burned.

      2. This stuff isn’t straight-forward, but I’d claim that coal is being burned by those that buy coal power. Yes, we can help them use our hydro by not using it, but there is choice involved.

        Of course this whole argument is just feeding a car-loving troll. The choice of rail vs. road building (sorry, “BRT”) involves much more carbon in the equation than just fuel source.

    2. “people emit carbon dioxide”

      Yeah but that doesn’t matter, because the carbon you emit by living was recently captured by an animal or plant. And will be recaptured shortly by the next generation plants/farm. It’s the the old carbon life cycle.

      The problem is the with fossil fuel we are emitting carbon that was stored millions of years ago.

      I suppose riding a carbon fiber bike might help sequester more carbon… but I doubt it would be measurable.

  4. FCVs using hydrogen will be available in 2012 from KIA. That will immediately give us a carbon free environment when coupled with fuel stations from Sun-Hydro. Sun Hydro stations generate hydrogen from solar energy. They are building a hydrogen highway on the East Coast and have opened their first station in Connecticut and soon others in Washington DC, Portland, Maine…elsewhere…

  5. City carbon neutrality movements can be useful in terms of developing best practices that can be applied elsewhere. If Seattle can demonstrate how to run a first-world urban center without oil, it can be example to other regions.

    Acheiving carbon neutrality though definitional tricks, like moving a carbon-belching cement batch plant from Seattle to Tukwila, is not helpful. But forcing cement plants within city limits to push the envelope in low-carbon production methods is helpful.

    It is more useful to focus efforts on emissions within the city, which city policy could at least potentially have an impact, than to focus on the “embodied carbon” in city imports such as food or Chinese manufactures.

    1. Portland is an example of both the solutions and the solutions’ problems. Some say Portland’s “dirty little secret” is Vancouver WA where Oregon’s urban growth boundary does not apply. So how much has Portland improved the environment in net terms, vs how much has it just displaced sprawl thirty miles north? My own impression is that it has done both.

  6. “Carbon Neutrality” even for a city is going to be really, really hard. There are some things that we have done, like zone most farming out of the city that means we are going to be using fossil fuel to transport food for a long time. Then we have all those goods which come from somewhere else transported by ships burning fossil fuel.

    The city will need to figure out how to generate “carbon sequestering offsets.” We can plant trees, as the city has less trees than it did 50 years ago, but some of the reason for that is we have paved over tree space.

    To reclaim some of that space, we may want to narrow some of our roads and add tree medians. That will invite howls from the auto centric transit users.

    The city could encourage more co-generation of heat/electricity which will increase the efficiency of our use of fossil fuels.

    The city can continue to encourage more bicycle use. At the current 3% we could easily double that to Portland’s 7%.

    I don’t get the possible retirement of the electric Trolley’s. It would seem that these are way less carbon using than the diesel buses.

    The city could replace the maintenance shed for the waterfront street car. That was electric and was replaced by a diesel bus.

    The city could chose to no dig the waterfront tunnel. That tunnel is primarily for the auto centric fossil fuel transport. Instead use the money to build out LINK light rail to West Seattle and a Trolley down Westlake to Freemont and Ballard.

    Yet until the food issue is dealt with, these transportation ideas are all just nibbles at the edges. True Carbon Neutrality is going to be really really hard.

    1. I guess we could just shut down the port to keep all those nasty carbon-belching cargo & cruise ships from visiting the Emerald City, eh? Unfortunately, goods, services and people have to move around a City. If we don’t want it to be a city, then so be it. Shut it down, replant the waterfront, put in mountain bike trails….oh, wait a minute, someone will have to pay for this lack of commerce – who needs employment/income/a future?

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