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Environmental Stewardship News

Posted on: September 19, 2023

San Juan County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report Released

Environmental Stewardship

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. September 19, 2023 - San Juan County has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from community sources and municipal operations to reduce the County’s carbon footprint. As a baseline step in this process, the County has completed a greenhouse gas inventory for the community and County operations. The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report is available to view on the Engage San Juan County website. Registered users on the Engage site may ask questions and learn more about climate action work. 

The Department of Environmental Stewardship engaged Cascadia Consulting to complete the inventory, and 2019 was chosen as the baseline year to avoid skewed results from the pandemic. The Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee gave feedback during the development of the inventory and reviewed the final report before recommending the County Council advance it to the public. The completed report includes inventories of geographic countywide emissions (emissions produced within San Juan County), consumption-based emissions (the carbon footprint for County households, which can include emissions inside or outside the County), and the emissions associated with County government operations. This work serves as a starting point for the County to pursue climate action efforts that will target the most significant emission sources and reduce San Juan County’s overall contribution to climate change. 


Key Findings

The results of the communitywide inventory indicate that San Juan County’s residents, businesses, and visitors produced an estimated 177,830 MTCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2019. The three largest sources of communitywide emissions were identified as Transportation (64%), Land Use (16%), and Building Energy (9%). The emissions associated with county household consumption reported in the consumption-based inventory totaled 308,000 MTCO2e, nearly double the geographic countywide emissions. Transportation (36%), services (23%), and food (21%) were the top categories in the consumption-based inventory. County operations produced an estimated 17,419 MTCO2e, equivalent to approximately 10% of communitywide emissions, with Tree Loss (94.5%) and Transportation (4.5%) as the largest emission sources. 


While the report provides a baseline for emissions in the Islands, County staff and the Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee have recognized the need for further refinement and clarification around the nuances that form the bigger picture.GHG Report cover


Forest Management and Wildfire Risk

The results of the communitywide inventory indicate that San Juan County’s residents, businesses, and visitors produced an estimated 177,830 MTCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2019. The three largest sources of communitywide emissions were identified as Transportation (64%), Land Use (16%), and Building Energy (9%). The emissions associated with county household consumption reported in the consumption-based inventory totaled 308,000 MTCO2e, nearly double the geographic countywide emissions. Transportation (36%), services (23%), and food (21%) were the top categories in the consumption-based inventory. County operations produced an estimated 17,419 MTCO2e, equivalent to approximately 10% of communitywide emissions, with Tree Loss (94.5%) and Transportation (4.5%) as the largest emission sources.


While the report provides a baseline for emissions in the Islands, County staff and the Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee have recognized the need for further refinement and clarification around the nuances that form the bigger picture.


Transportation

Looking further into the breakdown of transportation-related emissions, maritime emissions emerged as our biggest sources in the County, with ferries responsible for 54% and recreational boats an estimated 46%. Due to a lack of data from marinas, the consultants utilized the EPA MOVES model; while there was a good confidence level in this estimate, there is opportunity for further refinement of this metric in the future. While ferries are regulated at the State level, this highlights the opportunity and necessity to address the impacts of recreational boating locally.


Additionally, on-road vehicles represented 18% of emissions in this category. It’s worth noting that better metrics to further refine visitor vehicle numbers and vehicle miles traveled are being pursued through our continued work in climate action as well as in the Destination Management Plan


Wood Burning 

In the Building Energy category, wood burning for heat is noted as just .3% of total emissions. This number refers to anthropogenic emissions; the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from human production. The combustion of wood additionally releases biogenic emissions; the carbon contained in wood that would have been released naturally over time into the atmosphere without human intervention. The biogenic emissions are much greater at 18.7%, and both anthropogenic and biogenic must be considered to capture the full magnitude of wood burning for heat, which places it as a top emission source for San Juan County and therefore another important area of focus. 


Next Steps 
The County will use the information in this report to help set goals and policies for climate resilience and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Climate Planning Grant funding from Washington’s Department of Commerce will be applied to develop this work in coordination with the new climate element requirements for San Juan County’s Comprehensive Plan. 


Media Contact: Angela Broderick, Climate and Sustainability Coordinator, angelab@sanjuanco.com, (360) 370-0537.

About San Juan County's Department of Environmental Stewardship: San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship is responsible for solid waste, marine resources, clean water, cultural resources, and climate and sustainability work.  The department offices are located at 1609 Beaverton Valley Road, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. For more information about San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship, visit www.sanjuanco.com/839/Environmental-Stewardship.  

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