King County advances metrics for regional carbon footprint

Thursday, April 5, 2012

We are what we measure. This is particularly significant when it comes to identifying ways of reducing emissions at global and local scales to slow and hopefully curb the impacts on global climate change. While BC has demonstrated significant leadership, legislating that public sector organizations (PSO) achieve carbon neutrality by 2010, to the south of us, King County, is taking innovative action on ways to account for and quantify broad-based community emissions using both production and consumption metrics. Working with leading international organizations such as the Stockholm Environment Institute and other regional organizations, the King County inventory and tracking framework, is expanding the metrics of what can be accounted for and tracked in regional inventories.

Typically a geographic-based inventory involves estimating annual emissions (and other trace gases) emitted within an organization or regional boundary. Residential and commercial energy consumption (including industrial activity) tend to be largely defined by transportation, buildings, and industry emissions within a particular area. King County has advanced inventory methods to include consumption-based emissions associated with all goods and services consumed in the region, even if they are imported. This consumption-based method provides insights on how consumer choices, such as food consumption, affect global GHG emissions far beyond the region’s border. The combined framework is a step closer to better identifying the factors involved in quantifying regional carbon footprints and closer to tackling the elephant in the room which is how regional emissions account for embeddedness issues associated with emissions associated with imported/exported global goods markets and emissions associated with their transport and distribution.