A Greener Version of Washington

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mom was right when she told us to turn off the lights and lower the thermostat.

Given that much of the Washington region's greenhouse gas emissions are a result of our collective choices, Mom's advice not only saves the budget but the planet, too. Now, a new report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments sets regional goals and outlines best practices to stop climate change. The good news is that many of the recommendations contribute to other goals as well.

As the Council of Governments holds its annual meeting this month, we are highlighting the Climate Change Report: an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2012, 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. The report recommends choosing Energy Star-rated appliances, changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs and reducing energy consumption. It also includes strategies for local governments, such as expanding transit, increasing commuter options and promoting transit-oriented development. To achieve our goals, we'll need the help of the incoming Obama administration in setting consistent energy efficiency standards and stricter fuel economy standards nationwide.

Many of the 20 local governments that participate in the Council of Governments already have implemented some of the strategies. For example, Montgomery County offers residents rewards for purchasing clean energy and property tax credits for installing energy efficiency devices. Some jurisdictions are working toward a goal of purchasing 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources or switching to energy-efficient street lights and traffic signals.

Given the current economic conditions, some may ask how we can commit to such an ambitious plan. The answer is easy. Combating climate change makes good economic sense. Conserving energy, using efficient appliances, driving less and walking more all save money in the long run. Even better, investing in transit, clean energy production and green technology stimulates the economy and positions us well in the rapidly growing global green-collar sector.

Many of the Council of Governments' recommendations also contribute to air and water quality, agricultural preservation and congestion relief. It's a win-win-win situation.

Thanks to the Climate Change Report, the regional goals are in front of us, and so are the strategies to reach them. All we have to do is join forces to think globally and act locally. But first, put on a sweater -- Mom's orders.

-- Nancy Floreen


The writer is chairman of the Climate Change Steering Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and a member of the Montgomery County Council.

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