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Albemarle not on track to meet 2030 emission reduction target

Albemarle County will need to have a 39% reduction in community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to reach its emissions target, according to a new county report.

In 2019, the county adopted goals to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and to be “net zero” by 2050 using the county’s 2008 greenhouse gas inventory as a baseline.

The community produced about 1.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in carbon dioxide equivalent units in 2018 — the most recent information available — for a 10% reduction from 2008. That amounts to about a 1% decrease each year. But the county would have to quadruple that progress going forward to hit its target.

“Despite this progress, at this rate the community is not on track to meet the 2030 emission reduction target,” the report said. “To do so, the community must decrease emissions by an average of just over 4% each year through 2030.”

Gabe Dayley, the county’s climate protection program manager, said the reductions seen from 2008 to 2018 are largely due to changes across the region, state and country, such as an increase in the miles per gallon of vehicles, cleaner electricity and more efficient appliances and HVAC systems.

“Now we’re poised to really be able to monitor and evaluate our own actions that we take locally over the next couple of years,” he said.

The Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory Report was presented to the Board of Supervisors Wednesday as part of the second phase of the county’s climate action planning process, and the county will complete the inventory every two years, next with 2020 data.

According to the report, emissions from transportation contributed 52% of the community’s total emissions, emissions from electricity use, heating and cooking in buildings contributed 39%, agricultural livestock and other land uses contributed 5% and solid waste contributed 4%.

The volume of emissions for the transportation and “stationary energy” sectors have generally decreased since 2006, the report noted, and while the volume of emissions from the waste and agricultural livestock and other land uses sectors “appear to have increased,” it is likely due to differences in calculation methodologies that better capture actual emissions.

The report uses activity data collected by various federal, state, and regional agencies, but not all emissions from every greenhouse gas-producing activity is included due to data limitations.

Supervisor Dinatha McKeel said county staff should work with the Regional Transit Partnership, which includes membership from Charlottesville and University of Virginia transportation staff, on climate issues around transportation.

"I think it’s important we’re not working in our silo because to solve our community’s problem we’re going to have to work together," she said.

Dayley said the county will be developing methods to prioritize actions in the county’s Climate Action Plan and on a plan to engage the community.

Albemarle has started to move forward with some of its Climate Action Plan action items. In the first six months of this year, 15 homes owned by lower-income residents were retrofitted with better insulation and improved appliances in a partnership with the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program and the Local Energy Alliance Program. The county contributed $250,000.

The county also installed six electric vehicle charging stations outside the McIntire Road County Office Building and one at the Fifth Street County Office Building at a net cost of $100,000 for the construction and installation, as the rest was funded with a grant from Dominion Energy.

“We actually had over 400 individual charging sessions in the month of August, and in the lifetime of this project since these stations were installed, we’ve avoided about 7,700 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions through providing these chargers, as opposed to what might be gasoline powered vehicles traveling on the road,” Dayley said.

A climate vulnerability assessment is being completed for the county, which will analyze risks from climate change and how those directly affect Albemarle’s infrastructure and “built-in natural environment.” Piedmont Environmental Council received a grant to fund the assessment at no cost to the county, and the final report is expected in November.


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