The North Olympic Development Council (NODC) received a $170,000 grant to coordinate climate action planning with local governments, building on the 2015 Climate Change Preparedness Plan for the North Olympic Peninsula. OCA has representatives on the steering committee for this process. In preparation for the first regional planning workshop in February 2022, OCA compiled a list of climate change mitigation priorities and strategies to help guide the planning and hopefully action. We’ve edited this document a bit to make it public-facing and updated some of the information; readers may find the following ideas useful in work with other community groups and local governments.
Climate Change Mitigation Priorities and Strategies from Olympic Climate Action Prepared by Janis Burger, Ed Bowlby, Ed Chadd, and Cindy Jayne
Given that NODC’s detailed Climate Change Preparedness Plan for the North Olympic Peninsula was completed in 2015, and that GHG emissions inventories indicate that transportation and forest cover removal are our largest emissions sectors, OCA would like to encourage addressing and acting on mitigation across the Peninsula, especially focusing on transportation and natural climate solutions in our rural communities. National, regional and local entities have identified other low-hanging fruit that should be targeted. All actions below would help move us toward a healthier, more equitable, more sustainable economy and region, and contribute to state, national and worldwide GHG reduction goals.
Given common needs, landscapes, opportunities and challenges across the region, our suggestions draw heavily from already-developed and well-researched resources, particularly the 2020 Greenhouse Gas Community Emissions Reduction Opportunities report for Jefferson County at https://www.co.jefferson.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/12637/2020_JeffCo_GHG_Reduction_Opportunities_Approved_051121 and the Port Angeles 2019 GHG inventory at https://www.cityofpa.us/DocumentCenter/View/10911/Greenhouse-Gas-Inventory-Results.
- Given that transportation is the largest sector of fossil-fuel-based GHG emissions in our rural region, that should be the first priority, and it takes advantage of recent state and federal legislation that can be leveraged across jurisdictions to deploy EV charging infrastructure. Local groups have been pushing for electrifying the Olympic Loop (and up to Neah Bay) as a draw for visitors, but it would also benefit residents and staff of local governments and businesses. See the federal DOT February 2022 Rural EV tool kit at https://www.transportation.gov/rural/ev/toolkit/pdf
- Deploy EVs in business & local government fleets (city, county, port, state, tribal or federal).
- Electrify buses (or if hydrogen fuel cells can be sourced from low-carbon sources, use that option for challenging long-distant transit routes that EVs may not work on yet).
- Reduce vehicle miles traveled as a parallel track, so residents and visitors alike can benefit from cleaner air and reduced congestion. (It’s all relative compared to I-5, but think of Highway 101 during Lavender Festival!) Some of these are detailed in the GHG reduction report above.
- Refine data-driven public transportation schedules and routes.
- Encourage businesses and governments to offer transit passes and reward tele/bike commuting.
- Support and expand direct transit to Kingston and Bainbridge.
- Expand/encourage van pools.
- Promote multi-modal options like biking and compact, walkable communities.
- Expand and improve safe biking/walking routes.
- Encourage/develop codes/zoning for increased housing density in urban growth areas to reduce miles driven, add affordable housing stock, and optimize public transit efficacy.
- Federal broadband infrastructure funding should help reduce VMT by enabling telecommuting; can our local communities leverage that funding?
- The state Transportation for All act could help equitably fund transportation infrastructure, especially in lower income areas of the counties.
- Ensure local ports employ BMP to reduce vessel emissions, providing plug in capacity for ships.
- Building retrofits/efficiency: Provide equitable funding for LED conversion/weatherization/ efficiency/electrification upgrades for residences and businesses. This would synch nicely with the state Low-Income Weatherization Plus Health (Wx+H) program which aims to leverage federal infrastructure funds. Deploy ductless heat pumps for space heating and heat pump hot water heaters (identified as low-hanging fruit by Port Angeles staff in 2015). Provide outreach and incentivize if possible. Maybe partner with PUDs and volunteer community groups like OCA or service clubs for outreach and doing things like roof surveys after a snowstorm to map poorly insulated roofs (or perhaps satellite infrared scans?). Implement state C-PACER program (see below).
- WA Clean Energy Transformation Act may be able to aid in funding Conservation/Efficienty items as well as renewable energy items (see below).
- Work with Peninsula College to ensure green building courses and other energy efficiency skills/trades are offered to provide a workforce to implement retrofits and installations.
- Facilitate business, government, school/college, and residential solar PV and solar thermal installation. Solar hot water is very efficient, especially spring thru fall. Every roof with southern exposure is a potential site. Promote federal incentives, and encourage utilities to do more outreach/solar home tours to show it works here in the PNW. Explore partnering with companies doing solar rooftop lease options. Explore PUD/city loan guarantees for energy upgrades through local banks? Work to fully implement the state “commercial property assessed clean energy and resiliency” (C-PACER) program for this item and the efficiency item above.
- Explore appropriate locations for wind & community solar (assuring equity); Port land by Fairchild International Airport, or other open public lands?
- Incentivize battery bank storage.
- Expand deployment of decentralized solar, with strategic storage capacity (especially in rural areas most vulnerable to power outages), to reduce transmission loss and help build resilience in rural communities. In the event of major disasters, decentralization may be pivotal in remote areas like ours where we’re unlikely to get timely help. This may dovetail with current projects of the North Olympic Development Council and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
- Make sure city and county codes encourage and don’t obstruct distributed renewables and promote simple passive energy-saving measures such as building orientation and glazing location.
- Local utilities should push for salmon-friendly renewable energy. Explore wave or geothermal energy partnerships with PNNL?
Carbon Sequestration from Natural Solutions:
- Commercial forestry as currently practiced in our area is a net GHG emitter, and the net impact from commercial forestry and canopy loss in non-forest areas is larger than that from all other GHG emissions combined. But our Peninsula forests are some of the most carbon rich in the world, and there is huge potential for a carbon market and multiple social and ecological benefits from managing our forest resources for carbon sequestration.. With the demand for carbon sequestration markets growing, local communities and governments should push the DNR and other public forest managers to maximize sequestration opportunities and markets rather than just harvest models.
- Explore and develop markets for blue carbon, which can help with localized ocean acidification and potentially be a new business opportunity as markets for kelp and carbon sequestration expand. Adopt policies that preserve coastal wetlands, kelp beds and eelgrass beds which sequester large amounts of carbon and are critical biogenic habitats for multiple species. See https://hakaimagazine.com/features/kelp-gets-on-the-carbon-credit-bandwagon/ and note this bill which has passed the WA State Legislature in 2022: SB 5619 / HB 1661, “Conserving and restoring kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in Washington state,” which includes a provision for Community Engagement Plans.
- Work with WSU and USDA to disseminate information about, incentivize, and support regenerative farming practices to enhance soil restoration/carbon retention and reduce input costs for farmers.