City takes on global warming

November 11, 2008

By Jon Savelle

Issaquah officials are gearing up to do battle with climate change.

But it’s not like the old days. Now, it is all about data. Lots of data.

The city has teamed up with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of governments that promote sustainable development, to determine what Issaquah’s carbon footprint is. That means, how much carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere as a result of the city’s activities and policies. 

Carbon dioxide is important because it is a greenhouse gas — one that traps heat in the atmosphere and thus contributes to global warming. But determining Issaquah’s role in such warming is no simple task.

That’s where ICLEI comes in. Founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, the group has a sophisticated software tool that governments can use to gauge their carbon output in dozens of ways, such as solid waste, vehicle miles driven and energy use.  

Issaquah is gathering that data from many sources, said David Fujimoto, manager of the Resource Conservation Office. Besides the city’s operations, information is coming from Puget Sound Energy, the state Department of Ecology, the Puget Sound Clean Air Authority and others. 

“It is a ton of information,” Fujimoto said. “We look at it as the starting point for the city. It is a useful tool for us as we start to develop policies and programs. It is a tool for measuring change, for forecasting and planning.”

Amy Shatzkin, program director in ICLEI’s Seattle office, said this initial greenhouse gas inventory provides a baseline of data. Local groups are joining with others nationally to develop a standardized way of monitoring and reporting such information. 

Issaquah has plenty of company in this region. Shatzkin said ICLEI is working on similar efforts with Kirkland, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Edmonds, King County and Seattle; statewide some 35 governments are involved. 

“The mantra of our organization is, you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” she said. “It’s not just to gather data for the sake of gathering data, but to be able to make decisions about energy use and emissions moving forward.”

The initial inventory may be finished during the first half of 2009, Fujimoto said. Its findings will be presented to the administration and City Council then. But the report will contain no policy recommendations.

“This is just purely a data exercise,” Fujimoto said. “This is a foundation for policy.”

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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