Although greenhouse gas emissions in the Aspen area were down about 4 percent between 2007 and 2011, a large-scale effort is needed if the community is to reach the goal of cutting emissions 30 percent by 2020, Aspen City Council was told at a work session on Tuesday.
The city in 2005 enacted the Canary Initiative, a program designed to guide Aspen’s climate change awareness, and began the effort with an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions produced by Aspen and surrounding areas including the Airport Business Center, Red Mountain, Starwood and Mountain Valley. A second survey was completed in 2009 using 2007 data, and the third survey was completed last month using 2011 data.
The community has steadily reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 2004, with an overall net cut of 6 percent since then, said Elyse Hottel, the city’s environmental initiatives project coordinator, but to meet the Canary Initiative targets, more must be done.
“We’re very pleased with that,” Hottel said of the recent data, “but we still have work to do.”
To be on pace to meet the Canary Initiative goal of cutting emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 — from 2004 levels — greenhouse gasses needed to be down 11 percent by now, Hottel said.
Since 2007, consumed electricity and landfill emissions are down, but emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for air and ground transportation and to heat and power buildings were up, according to the study.
Different community-wide programs have contributed to cutting emissions over the past few years, Hottel said. Those include the city of Aspen and Pitkin County’s Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP), which collects fees from new homeowner energy-intensive uses and spends those funds on efficiency measures; rebates and incentives the city has offered to green businesses; the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s efforts to reduce emissions and the fact that some hotels and affordable housing units voluntarily installed energy-efficient fixtures in the past few years. Although the efforts have an impact on reducing emissions, it’s not enough to meet the overall goal, Hottel said.
“We feel these programs are not quite enough to get us there,” Hottel said.
To come up with more effective policies, representatives from different city departments are going to come together over the next few months to create a list of recommendations on reducing energy consumption. While the community isn’t on pace to meet its goal, the city of Aspen has reduced its building and operations emissions by 33 percent from the 2004 baseline. That’s partly due to city-wide efforts to reduce emissions through small initiatives like encouraging employees to ride bikes to work and turning off power strips at the end of the day, Hottel said.
The recommendations will be presented mid-February to council members so they can craft city-wide policies that will be more effective at reducing emissions, Hottel said.
The first greenhouse gas emissions study, released in 2006 using 2004 data, found that Aspen and surrounding areas produced a total of 840,875 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide. The next inventory, released in 2009 using 2007 data, found that emissions were down 8.25 percent from 2004, primarily because the city electric utility had expanded its purchases of renewable energy to supply its customers with power. At the time, actual electricity consumption in the study area was up 9.8 percent.
The city plans to conduct another inventory in three to four years.