Local Commentary

Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

It’s December, but one would have to look at the calendar to be sure. Our front yard azalea is sporting fat pink blossoms, and last week I saw a camellia bush similarly attired, seemingly oblivious to the autumn leaves piling up nearby. Winter clothes still packed away, waiting for colder temps, which may, or may not, come, according to the forecasters, who predict a warmer-than-normal winter. A mild winter sounds about as exciting as mild salsa but, with the ongoing pandemic, mild is welcome.

A peculiar seasonal change? Or an ongoing pattern of climate change? In the National Capital Region, local officials recently approved the Metropolitan Washington 2030 Climate and Energy Action Plan, which outlines collaborative actions the region should take to meet shared climate goals. The plan is a regional roadmap for mitigating climate change, but also ensuring resilience in the face of climate impacts. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors approved a new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal for the region – a 50 percent reduction of GHG emissions below baseline levels, or 2005 emission levels, by 2030. A daunting goal, perhaps, but data shows that the region reached its original 2020 goal by 2017, so the next goal, though ambitious, appears to be achievable. The overall goal is reducing GHG by 80 percent by 2050.

The greatest challenge may be that the region is growing in population at the same time, so reducing GHG emissions at the same time there is greater demand for energy, water, and transportation. Nonetheless, a cleaner energy grid, cleaner cars, and reduced vehicle miles traveled per person (even before the pandemic) aided the progress in reducing emissions since 2005. On the flip side, the main drivers of increased emissions were more people, commercial space, and hydrofluorocarbons, such as those created for refrigeration.

The regional plan, which was developed through COG’s Climate, Energy, and Environment Policy Committee (CEEPC) contains 25 suggested collaborative actions, in the areas of planning, equity, clean electricity, zero energy buildings, zero emission vehicles, mode shift and travel behavior, zero waste, and sequestration, which focuses on trees and tree canopy. The plan also assesses hazards and vulnerabilities, such as measuring the risk of extreme heat and weather events. Actions, which can be implemented both by private and public entities, include resilient infrastructure, improving storm drainage to lessen flood risk, and planting trees in communities and neighborhoods experiencing higher urban heat island temperatures.

Much of the plan was developed under the CEEPC chairmanship of Falls Church City Councilmember Dan Sze, who passed away this summer.
Although I was tapped to succeed Dan as CEEPC chair for the last few months of 2020 and steer the committee plan to adoption, the plan really is a tribute to Dan’s passion for the environment, his positive outlook, and his unfailing focus on doing the right thing, for his Little City, and for the entire metropolitan region. More about the plan can be found at online here.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.