What’s the climate change outlook in Jefferson County? | Guest Viewpoint

Cindy Jayne, Pam Adams, Kate Dean
Posted 11/6/20

In 2006, a group of concerned Jefferson County residents stepped forward to develop a first-ever, county-wide inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This citizen-led effort sparked action by …

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What’s the climate change outlook in Jefferson County? | Guest Viewpoint


In 2006, a group of concerned Jefferson County residents stepped forward to develop a first-ever, county-wide inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This citizen-led effort sparked action by the city and county, which jointly adopted a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to levels 80 percent lower than 1990 levels. 

To help meet these ambitious goals, Jefferson County and the City of Port Townsend formed an advisory body, the Climate Action Committee (CAC). It’s composed of citizen volunteers, elected officials, and representatives of the Port Townsend Paper Corporation, Jefferson Healthcare, Jefferson County PUD, Port of Port Townsend, Jefferson Transit, Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, and Port Townsend City Council.  

The CAC’s purpose is dual: to accelerate progress on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and to prepare for climate impacts. 

The CAC shares best practices and policies, monitors GHG emission data, tracks the climate goals of its member organizations, and engages with citizens to foster collective and personal decisions about climate action.

The CAC operates in accordance with the Washington State Open Public Meetings regulations, with all meetings open to the public. The CAC invites citizen input and participation.  

So, what’s happened?

In 2011, the city and county formally adopted the Climate Action Plan, which identifies strategies to meet the 2050 goal by:

• Reducing emissions from city and county operations;

• Developing climate-sensitive land-use and transportation policies in conjunction with planning commissions; and

• Engaging the community.

In parallel, the city, county, Fort Worden Public Development Authority, and the Port Townsend and Chimacum schools hired a resource conservation manager to review their facilities with the goal of reducing energy, water, and solid-waste costs. 

The CAC partnered with Local 20/20 to engage the community via competitions and presentations, such as the Taming Bigfoot GHG reduction contest, sea-level rise workshops, and a program to monitor Salish Sea “King Tides” in Port Townsend. 

The CAC supported development of the Climate Preparedness Plan for the North Olympic Peninsula, working with Clallam County, local tribes and others.

Recently, the CAC developed a “decision support tool” to help guide its member organizations in assessing climate impacts on potential projects, and in developing and deploying mitigation and adaption strategies.  

Are we on track to meet our
county-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals?  

In 2018, the CAC embarked on a second GHG emissions inventory to gauge progress against the 2050 goals. Jefferson County’s new GHG Emissions Inventory report is now available (www.co.jefferson.wa.us/638/Documents) with detailed analysis of where progress has been achieved and where challenges remain. 

First, the good news

Jefferson County has reduced greenhouse gas emissions originating here by 40 percent since 2005.  

This positive development is primarily due to two factors: 

• Hydropower is the source of Jefferson County’s electricity, which is a “renewable” energy source. In 2012, the primary electricity supplier for Eastern Jefferson County switched from Puget Sound Energy to Jefferson County PUD. This was based on a community-wide initiative, approved by county voters in 2008.  The PUD began acquiring its electricity from Bonneville Power Association (BPA). BPA electricity is largely generated from hydropower, which has relatively low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Relying primarily on hydropower resulted in a 97.6 percent reduction in the CO2e emissions intensity of Jefferson County’s electricity use.

• The Port Townsend Paper Corporation (PTPC) reduced its carbon footprint dramatically. PTPC emissions decreased by
52 percent from 2005 to 2018, due to a variety of operational efficiencies. Note that PTPC already used BPA hydropower in 2005; thus, its GHG reductions are due to those efficiencies.

Now, the challenging news

Currently, the largest contributor to GHG emissions in the county is transportation. There are more of us and we are driving more. Transportation accounts for 66 percent of current GHG emissions generated in Jefferson County.  Some startling statistics bear this out: 

• Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in 2018 was 19 percent higher than in 2005; 

• Transportation emissions increased
13 percent since 2005;

• Per-capita miles driven were up 6.3 percent since 2005; 

• Commuting is estimated to constitute
21 percent of miles traveled in the county;

• Fuel efficiency has improved about
10 percent since 2005 for gas passenger vehicles;

• Households in Jefferson County typically own two or three motorized vehicles; and

• Only 0.3 percent of vehicles registered in Jefferson County are fully electric-powered.

Future reductions in county-wide GHG emissions will require a focus on transportation — a difficult challenge in a rural county.

Many citizens are interested in developing their own personal climate action plans. The CAC is committed to helping Jefferson County residents better understand how they, their families and neighborhoods can reduce their “carbon footprint” and prepare for climate impacts in the future.

With that in mind, the CAC’s 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory report includes a consumption-based GHG emission estimate, which provides a more complete view of residential emissions, including not only emissions that originate here but also those resulting from our consumption of goods and services produced elsewhere. The consumption-based model approximates GHG emissions resulting from goods and services consumed by households, whether the associated greenhouse gases were produced in Jefferson County or elsewhere. This study found that Jefferson County residents are associated with consumption-based emissions of 20.2 metric tons/person. This value exceeds the emissions that originate in the county by a factor of 2.3. 

The consumption-based model outlines the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the consumption of various goods and services.  This information provides insights into how so many of our lifestyle choices are related to climate change.  

Participate in a CAC Community Engagement meeting in November

Soon, it will be time for Jefferson County citizens to weigh in with their opinions about the progress made to date, and their ideas and suggestions for how we can meet the climate challenges facing us all now and in the years ahead.  

Climate Action Committee members are all interested in citizen input as future climate goals and mitigation plans are updated. To learn more, please read the inventory report and, if you can, attend a virtual Climate Action Committee Community Engagement Meeting.  

The first meeting will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12.

The second meeting will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17.

Call-in information for these two Zoom meetings is available at the Jefferson County Climate Action Committee website (www.co.jefferson.wa.us/637/Climate-Action-Committee). 

Presenters at these meetings include Cindy Jayne, chair of the Climate Action Committee; County Commissioner Kate Dean; Port Townsend City Councilmember Pam Adams; and Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro.

Cindy Jayne is chair of the Jefferson County & City of Port Townsend Climate Action Committee (CAC).

Pam Adams is the city of Port Townsend CAC representative.

Kate Dean is the Jefferson County CAC representative.


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  • TomT

    It is disingenuous to state that the switchover from PSE to our PUD's BPA power sourcing in any way contributed to "greenhouse gas emissions **originating** here by 40 percent since 2005." None of PSE's power was **produced** in Jefferson County.

    All of PSE's emissions originate in other counties or even other states (like their coal plant in Montana), and PSE power is still only about 44% "green", with the rest from fossil fuels, so we're clearly much better off using BPA's clean power.

    Friday, November 6, 2020 Report this