Energy & Resources

Photo: Green MPs/Flickr

Greater Washington needs a clean, efficient economy for the 21st century.

All major cities around the world are facing increasing pressure to lower greenhouse gas emissions within their borders and more carefully manage finite natural resources. Greater Washington is no exception, and much remains to be done to ensure that the region’s population and economy can enjoy sustainable, long-term growth.

In 2008, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) established carbon-reduction goals for the region:

  • By 2020, reduce emissions by 20 percent over 2005 levels
  • By 2050, reduce emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels

These goals support an effort to limit global warming to between 2.5 and 3 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures. Though ambitious at the time, the international community as since signed the Paris Agreement to limit warming to below 2 degrees. In response, several jurisdictions in the region have increased their ambition. For example, in 2017, the District pledged that it will be carbon-neutral by 2050; 72 other cities around the world have made this pledge through C40. Montgomery County committed to reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035.

Despite progress made in some jurisdictions, the region overall is not on track to meet even the original goals established by MWCOG. As of 2018, the region has reduced emissions by 10 percent below 2005 levels—half way to its original 2020 goal with only two years remaining.

Experts agree that cities should focus on reducing emissions in four areas: energy, building efficiency, waste, and transportation. The Board of Trade will explore how smart city technology and wise public policy can improve outcomes in all four areas as well as other areas that are important for environmental sustainability. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, smart city technology can reduce emissions by 10-15 percent, water consumption by 30 percent, and unrecycled waste by 20 percent—often by simply making life more efficient.

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