Posted March 18, 2009 | Atlanta
On March 17, 2009, Mayor Shirley Franklin released Atlanta city government's first report on greenhouse gas emissions as the first step towards the goal of reducing emissions in the city seven percent by 2012. Also known as the "carbon footprint,* the figure was calculated with the help of a student-faculty team from Georgia Tech and establishes a baseline to measure progress in Atlanta's sustainability efforts. The Georgia Tech team was comprised of Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor at the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), along with PhD students Seth Borin, ISyE, and Joy Wang, Public Policy.
Thomas, Wang, and Borin worked with the Office of Sustainability of the City of Atlanta and Sustainable Atlanta to evaluate the total greenhouse gas emissions from the operations of the City of Atlanta government. This includes City electricity and natural gas use, transportation fuel use by City vehicles, as well as emissions of other greenhouse gases.
"The City of Atlanta's greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 came to 540 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is equivalent to emissions from the household energy use of about 150,000 people or the annual energy use of about 100,000 passenger vehicles,* said Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor at the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems at Georgia Tech and primary author of the report. "Having conducted an inventory and committed to reducing emissions makes the City of Atlanta a leader in the state and region and well ahead of federal action on climate change.*
"We know that the opportunities to reduce our emissions are great, particularly now with the federal administration's focus on green job creation and green energy,* said Mayor Franklin. "With funding from the recently-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Atlanta's sustainability efforts will focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives which will create jobs, save money and protect our environment,* she said.
Determining Atlanta city government's carbon footprint coincides with the release of the inaugural sustainability report for Atlanta. Produced by Sustainable Atlanta (a non-governmental partner to the city's Office of Sustainability), the report compiles readily available data to create benchmarks for measuring Atlanta's sustainability efforts, including the city's carbon footprint. The report * available at www.sustainableatlanta.org * also provides best practices, context, proposed strategies and action in the areas of water; energy and climate change; parks and greenspace; and recycling and materials management.
"The Sustainability Report for Atlanta is both a map and milepost,* said Lynnette Young, executive director of Sustainable Atlanta. "It is a snapshot of Atlanta's current status as it relates to sustainability and a context for future measurement and opportunity, determining what we can do together to help the city advance sustainable lifestyles for everyone.*
Launched in 2008 with support from the Kendeda Fund, the Atlanta Office of Sustainability is working across city departments to "green* operations and at the same time, maximize efficiencies. Sustainable practices implemented at City Hall are already generating a 20 percent drop in electricity use, with a forecast of nearly $135,000 in annual operations cost savings.
With the municipal carbon footprint established, the next step will be to develop the Atlanta Climate Action Plan. "The Climate Action Plan will be our blueprint to guide all city departments so that current initiatives and near-term objectives are aligned with achieving the 2012 emissions reduction goal," said Mandy Schmitt, Atlanta's Director of Sustainability. "This strategic effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions supports the ultimate goal of making Atlanta a community that lives within the self-perpetuating limits of its environment, while maintaining high standards for economic growth, environmental integrity, and social justice."
According to Schmitt, near-term goals for Atlanta city government to achieve by the end of 2009 include:
1. 10 percent drop in energy use in general fund* facilities through low/no-cost conservation measures yielding $300,000 to $500,000 in annual savings
2. Five percent drop in water use in general fund facilities
3. At least two renewable energy demonstration projects
4. Three percent drop in fossil fuels used by municipal fleet yielding $267,000 in annual savings
5. 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in general fund facilities
Atlanta's greenhouse gas inventory was guided by a protocol developed by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Atlanta is one of more than 1,057 cities, towns and counties worldwide that are members of ICLEI and that have made a commitment to sustainable development. Atlanta also hosts ICLEI's Southeast Regional Office, and city staff shares office space with ICLEI representatives to maximize the organization's resources in developing performance-based, results-oriented campaigns and programs.
*General fund facilities do not include facilities in Enterprise Fund Departments, such as Watershed and Airport, whose funds come directly from user fees.
Industrial and Systems Engineering
Contact Barbara Christopher