Sonoma County greenhouse gases down 11% in 2014

Emissions from greenhouse gas are down in Sonoma County, however, the county still has a ways to go to meet its goal, according to a new report by the Center for Climate Protection.

In 2014, Sonoma County’s electricity and natural gas emissions decreased by nearly 12 percent from 2013. The county produced about 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is down about 14 percent from 2007, when county emissions reached a high of about 4.2 million tons.

In 2005, all nine Sonoma County cities and the county had pledged to reduce emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels, equal to about 2.8 million tons, by 2015.

“Although we won’t meet our extremely ambitious 2015 target, we’re moving in the right direction,” said Ann Hancock, executive director of the Santa Rosa-based center, in a statement. “We have to work a lot harder to move a lot faster.”

The center has been tracking the county’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2003. It calculates GHG emissions from major sectors to reveal trends that demonstrate progress toward the county’s goals.

“It’s too soon to tell if this is a trend we can count on, but we believe that we’re bringing emissions down in a real and hopefully accelerating way,” Hancock said.

Overall, starting in 2008, per capita electricity use in Sonoma County declined, possibly due to improvements in energy efficiency, increases in onsite generation from solar photovoltaic systems, milder winters and cooler summers, or a combination of several factors, the report said.

The county has achieved some success in reducing emissions due to the increase in renewable supply by both PG&E and Sonoma Clean Power, and the California government’s high priority on decarbonization, according to the report.

Obstacles to emission reduction measures include increases in population and an economy largely based on fossil fuels, it said.

Transportation is the county’s largest culprit of carbon production, accounting for about 65 percent of Sonoma County’s total emissions. Transportation emissions began decreasing in 2009, but started increasing again in 2013. Causes may be a growing economy, and/or increased population. Regardless of annual variations, vehicle miles traveled are expected to increase.

However, Sonoma County can significantly reduce transportation emissions by shifting from gas and diesel-powered vehicles to those powered by electricity, according to the center’s soon-to-be-released draft report on electric vehicles.

“Expanding low carbon and zero emission travel is one of our top priorities,” said Suzanne Wilford Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “We aim to do this by reimagining public transportation, incentivizing electric vehicles, looking at new policies like user-based road use fees, launching SMART [Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit] and implementing a car share program.”

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