Greenhouse gas emissions decreased in Columbia by 8.3% between 2015 and 2019, but the city needs to take more action to stay on track and meet the first benchmark in its climate plan.
The city must complete greenhouse gas emissions inventories to measure progress toward the council-adopted goals of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
Those goals are to reduce emissions by 35% by 2035, 80% by 2050 and 100% by 2060.
To monitor progress, greenhouse gas emissions are tracked by the city’s Office of Sustainability and provide information on the quantity and sources of greenhouse gas emissions within the city.
In a report presented to the City Council on Monday, Carolyn Amparan, chair of the Climate and Environment Commission, urged the council to address the energy sector, which accounted for 71.6% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
The commission also recommended the council and City Manager John Glascock ask city departments to demonstrate how they will address emissions goals during this fiscal year.
Among other sustainability goals, the city plans to increase production and consumption of locally produced food, as well as decrease the community’s per capita water use.
To reach zero waste by 2050, a “pay as you throw” system would charge customers for the amount of trash the city collects from them.
Much of the waste generated by Columbia residents and businesses could be composted or recycled, according to the city’s website.
To decrease emissions within the transportation sector, the city is working toward a bicycle-friendly community to reduce dependence on motor vehicles.
The city estimates 78% of residents drive alone to work every day.
The city also intends to install solar panels on city buildings and offer community solar subscriptions.
Other efforts include increasing the salaries of city employees working in health fields, ensuring air conditioners and fans are available for low-income housing units and requiring rental properties to meet basic energy efficiency standards.
There is also an intent to install solar panels on city buildings.
Only 16% of electricity provided by Columbia Water & Light is from renewable sources, the city has reported.
Jay Hasheider, chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Action and Adaptation Planning, said the city will have to remove about 2,500 tons of carbon emissions per year in order to reach its goals.
The climate action plan was adopted by the council on June 17, 2019, and the Climate & Environment Commission was established Oct. 7, 2019.