Climate Action in Marin County
Understanding Local Emissions and Progressing Toward Our Goals
“Think Globally, Act Locally.” Marin’s local governments take this charge seriously when it comes to addressing the root causes of climate change in our communities. Climate Action Plans (CAPs), which have been adopted by every jurisdiction in Marin, help residents, businesses, and policymakers understand how activities locally generate emissions that contribute to climate change, called an emissions inventory.
Climate Action Plans include suggested policies, programs, and measures that can be taken locally to minimize the impacts of emission-generating activities while supporting healthier, greener communities.
Local governments in Marin collaborate to understand and act on climate change through the Marin Climate and Energy Partnership (MCEP). Founded in 2007, MCEP was formed as a partnership of the eleven Marin County cities and towns, the County of Marin, the Transportation Authority of Marin, MCE Clean Energy, and the Marin Municipal Water District. MCEP combines resources to develop greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventories and leverages collective action to implement policies and programs to reduce emissions. You can learn more about MCEP at www.marinclimate.org.
Marin has long prided itself on local environmental leadership, and California has provided clear guidance for local governments hoping to support the state’s emissions reduction targets. California has three target years and corresponding GHG emission reduction goals:
- By 2020, reduce emissions back to 1990 emission levels (equivalent to 15% below 2005 emission levels)
- By 2030, reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 emission levels
- By 2050, reduce emissions to 80% below 1990 emission levels
As illustrated in the graph above, while Marin's cities and towns have made substantial reductions in GHG emission output since 2005, the path to 2050 will require innovation and investment in every emission-generating sector. To know what actions must be taken to achieve these goals, it’s important to understand what activities in Marin generate emissions, and what has worked so far.
On-road transportation, primarily from passenger vehicles, is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Marin County and has been since local assessment of greenhouse gas emissions started. Many alternatives exist for residents and employees that would like to reduce their time spent driving alone, including carpooling, taking transit, riding your bike, or walking.
However, for many residents and workers in Marin County, driving is necessary for daily commutes and errands. Electric vehicles provide an opportunity for zero-emission driving, reduced fuel and maintenance costs, and improved outdoor air quality. New models are coming out every year, and battery ranges are continuing to improve, with multiple vehicles now covering greater than 200 miles. Battery Electric and Plug-In Electric Vehicles are some of the fastest growing categories of vehicles registered in Marin, with a greater than 20% increase in 2018 alone.
It's important to keep in mind, however, that electric vehicles are only as clean as the electricity that powers them. The growing availability of low and zero-carbon electricity has driven down emissions associated with energy use down in Marin County. To comply with statewide renewable portfolio targets, a growing share of PG&E’s electricity is sourced from renewable energy (33% renewable in 2017). PG&E also has a Community Solar Choice program, which allows its customer's similar flexibility to elect 100% renewable energy.
MCE, which began serving customers in mid-2010, provides electricity that is less carbon intensive than PG&E’s electric portfolio. In addition, MCE’s Deep Green program offers customers the opportunity to purchase 100% renewable electricity (compared to 60% renewable in their Light Green option). The increase of renewable sources in has led to substantial decreases in electricity emissions.
In addition to the renewable electricity provided by the grid, an increasing number of businesses and households in Marin are choosing to generate their own clean electricity by installing solar photovoltaics (PV) on site.
When installed solar PV is ready to be used, it is “interconnected” with the grid. By a measure of interconnected kilowatts (kW), from 2005 to 2018, annual installed solar increased 355%, offsetting the need to provide fossil-fuel powered electricity to those homes and businesses. For the last ten years, the number of approved, residential solar electric interconnections with PG&E increased through 2016, dropped in 2017, and then trended upward again in 2018.
Understanding the impact that solar and other renewables have on decreasing emissions from electricity use, Marin has started to examine the impact of natural gas use on local GHG emissions. Although both electricity use and natural gas use has decreased in the past decade, as a share of total energy emissions, natural gas has increased by 11% as our sources of electricity have been increasingly renewable.
The County has recently launched a program to reduce natural gas use in existing buildings called Electrify Marin, which provides rebates for residents that remove natural gas or propane appliances and replace them with qualified, high-efficiency, all-electric appliances.
While data alone cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Marin, it's an essential tool for policymakers to measure success and identify key strategies. Scientists agree that substantial action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade is crucial. The better we understand where those emissions come from, the more precise action
can be taken. It's also important to note what is not included in these inventories, specifically the consumption of goods and services by Marin residents. This includes the emissions associated with airplane trips, creation, and transportation of imported goods like cars, clothes, and food.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District partnered with the UC Berkeley Cool Climate Network to estimate the consumption-based emissions of every census block group in the Bay Area, which you can explore the interactive online map at coolclimate.org/inventory.
Curious what else you can do as an individual to stop climate change? Visit www.drawdownmarin.org to learn more about how to engage with climate action in your community.
The County of Marin Sustainability and Open Data teams invite you to explore the climate change-related datasets on data.marincounty.org and share any questions or ideas you have with email@example.com.