Greenhouse Gas Inventory in Fairfax County, Virginia

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In June, Virginia’s Governor McAuliffe pledged to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement goals, agreeing to honor the state’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions of 26-28% of 2005 levels by 2025. Since this time, I’ve been looking into how the state and its counties have addressed climate change mitigation in the past, and I have been researching ways in which we can move forward on 2025 goals. Much remains to be done at the state level, but I wanted to focus on Fairfax County for the time being. Fairfax is the county in which I reside. It is also the most populous county in Virginia. Action taken here to curb greenhouse gas emissions would go a long way in helping the state achieve its 2025 goals.

I started with searching for a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for the county, and found a report that spanned 2006-2010. Borrowing methods from the county inventory, I did a basic update for 2010 to 2015, looking at vehicles and stationary sources (consumption of electricity and natural gas). This inventory as of now does not go as in-depth as the 2010 county report, but it shows the biggest sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in Fairfax.

I am including a chart below, which shows annual emissions from 2005 to 2010 (all emissions have been converted to metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e). Emissions from certain sectors have remained consistently high – vehicles, for instance, while others have fallen. Emissions from electricity consumption have significantly dropped over the past decade, contributing to the overall drop in greenhouse gases emitted from Fairfax County. This is likely due to the shift from coal-fired to natural gas fired power plants that took place over this time frame. Burning natural gas does not produce as much carbon dioxide as burning coal. Technology leading to “cleaner” burning coal may have helped as well. Despite this drop in emissions, over the past couple of years, progress has stalled. Fairfax County is about halfway to its 2025 goals, but the county has a long way to go, in terms of evaluating where new regulations should be put into place, and what changes can be made.

In addition to the individual emission sources, I have charted total emissions against the 2025 goal to demonstrate how much further emissions need to drop for the county to meet reductions pledged in the Paris Climate Agreement. I am finishing up a first draft of a report, and will share the inventory with the blog in the near future. Stay tuned!

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