2024-06-15 12:28 AM

Guest Commentary: Help Create a Roadmap for Reducing Community Carbon Emissions

By Andrew N. Young

Saturday is the 53rd Earth Day, a time when we come together to acknowledge the impact we have on our environment and advocate for solutions to issues like climate change. In that spirit, the City is creating its first Community Energy Action Plan, a roadmap for how the City will help residents and businesses lower their carbon footprint.

Join City staff and leaders as well as Meridian High students at an interactive, open house event at Meridian High School on Thursday, April 20, 2023 from 7 p.m. — 9 p.m. Attendees will learn about climate change and the climate solutions happening now in our City. Participants will also have the opportunity to shape the City’s Energy Action Plan by sharing their thoughts on what the City should prioritize and how the City could help tackle any barriers to reducing their environmental impact. 

The need for climate action within the City of Falls Church and around the country is greater than ever. The effects of increasing greenhouse gas emissions are becoming more tangible every day, with extreme weather events around the country becoming a weekly headline. The U.S. has recently experienced record-breaking droughts, wildfires, extreme heat, and severe storms like never before in our history. While our City has been spared these catastrophes seen in other parts of the country, the changing weather is hard to miss.

That said, the country is taking decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Falls Church joined other jurisdictions throughout the Washington, D.C. region by committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. And the even better news is that despite an estimated 34 percent growth in population between 2005 and 2020, the City of Falls Church achieved a 22 percent reduction in emissions through a cleaner electrical grid, cleaner transportation modes, and energy efficiency improvements in our buildings – we are on our way! Nevertheless, we still need to make significant reductions to meet our goals, even while The Little City continues to grow. We need the Community Energy Action Plan to make both sustainable growth and emissions reductions possible throughout our City. 

Three things make me optimistic that the City of Falls Church can succeed. First, sustainable technology is quickly evolving for both buildings and transportation. Heat pumps are more efficient than conventional home heating systems as they move heat instead of creating it. Rooftop solar has the potential to provide cheaper electricity and an independent source of clean power. Electric vehicles, which have no tailpipe emissions, are growing in popularity as more manufacturers start to deliver new models and people realize they’re fun to drive! 

A second reason to be optimistic is that the federal government is providing unprecedented financial support for clean energy solutions through its recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). With the federal government’s help these investments can reduce our carbon footprint and save individuals and businesses money.

And finally, I believe that our community is a small but mighty force for change and environmental action. We have a long history of promoting sustainability among our residents, with a broad range of organizations and individuals advocating for the environment. Whether it’s the second highest recycling rate in the state, curbside composting, urban tree canopy protection, wildlife habitats certifications, or Operation EarthWatch for our students, we’ve already demonstrated what’s possible in a small community where individual voices and efforts come together to make a big difference.

The City’s Community Energy Action Plan will reflect all of these opportunities, and more, to help it reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Your participation in developing this plan will help the City identify key needs, potential challenges, and priority areas where they can support residents and businesses to reduce their climate impact. 

Please stop by Thursday’s fun, Earth Day themed event where you will have the opportunity to:

Discover the sustainable features of Meridian High School.

Poke your head in the City’s new electric school bus and police vehicles.

Speak with the high school’s solar panel provider.

Provide your feedback on what you need to reduce your climate impact and what the City can do to help.

We look forward to seeing you there! 

If you cannot attend, keep an eye out for our July town hall where we will present the first draft of the plan. In the meantime, feel free to provide your feedback on your community’s sustainability to environment@fallschurchva.gov.

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