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Updating Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory and Framework

Anchorage, Alaska

Featured image for the project, Updating Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory and Framework

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The city of Anchorage, Alaska is looking to update their city-wide greenhouse gas emission inventory using a reproducible framework. This inventory will create a robust baseline that can be used to determine emission reduction progress going forward.

Description

Anchorage is a city of about 300,000 people, located in southcentral Alaska, and is home to nearly 40% of the state’s population. Alaska is on the front lines of climate change. Anchorage residents are feeling the impacts of climate change through greater intensity wildfires, more freeze/thaw events in the winter, and damaging insects like the spruce bark beetle moving further north. Anchorage is a unique and diverse city, both in its demographics as well as its remote location.

The city adopted their Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2019, establishing greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The first overarching action in the CAP is to complete a greenhouse gas inventory and update it annually to measure progress towards climate goals. The creation of the CAP included significant involvement from the community, including seven working groups to establish priorities and more than 1,500 people involved in public work sessions. The city worked to include equity as a pillar of their approach through an advisory committee and concerted efforts to engage many different neighborhoods.

In 2017, an initial community inventory was done using 2015 emission data to develop a baseline, however some gaps in data and methodology updates have been identified. The key priority of Anchorage is to update the framework for calculating a greenhouse gas emission inventory and apply this new methodology to the 2015 inventory. This framework will then be used by the city going forward to track the progress of emission reduction as laid out by the CAP. The city is involved in both ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN).

 

Project:

The city would like help determining the progress they are making towards meeting their CAP goals so that they can provide that information to the greater community, which will continue community engagement and investment in emission reductions.

Scope:

  1. Develop a framework for conducting a city-wide greenhouse gas inventory
    1. This framework needs to be reproducible by the city going forward
    2. This framework needs to be city-based, not state-based
    3. Determine data required to build an inventory: are there data gaps?
    4. The city would ideally like to use the ClearPath tool used by ICLEI, although is open to using other simple, easily reproducible methods
  2. Update 2015 inventory using this framework to determine a benchmark
    1. Using city-wide data versus state-wide data
    2. Reduction targets will be based on this inventory
    3. Determine time interval between inventories

 

 

Outputs:  

  1. Documentation for a reproducible framework the city can implement going forward
  2. The city would like to produce a final report for the city government and community that:
    1. Illustrates data in an engaging way (graphs, data visualization):
    2. Clearly shows data sources and any gaps in the inventory
    3. Lays out key assumptions made in inventory accounting
    4. Includes recommendations for how data monitoring could be improved to increase accuracy of the inventory in the future

 

Future goals:

  1.  Implement framework to conduct additional inventories, including for 2020 

 

Timeline and Milestones:

The collaboration between the community and a scientist should start as soon as possible. The project should be completed by December 31st, 2021. The city aims to hire a local consultant by July 1st, 2021 to begin work on compiling inventory data. 

Updates

Community Insights: Taking action on the front lines of climate change

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, with 300,000 residents spread out over an area about the size of Delaware. Part of Dena’ina Elnena (Dena’ina Country), home to members of the Eklutna and Knik tribes and many nationalities, it is a place with deep indigenous roots and a complex cultural and political history. Nestled between the Cook Inlet and the Chugach mountains, Anchorage has long stood as the economic hub of the state and the gateway to the Arctic. 

Unfortunately, Anchorage also stands at the front lines of climate change. Alaska’s climate is changing twice as fast as the rest of the U.S., with more frequent rain and snow events, more insect infestations, receding glaciers and a longer wildfire season. Eager to tackle these problems head-on, city administration and residents are working with scientific partners to establish a baseline emissions inventory and create a framework for reducing emissions as part of a wide-reaching Climate Action Plan. 

We met with the project’s Community Lead, Shaina Kilcoyne, the Energy and Sustainability Manager for the Municipality of Anchorage, to learn more about the challenges and opportunities Anchorage is facing.

How would you describe your community to someone who’s never been there?

There’s a lot to say about Anchorage. We’re pretty unique. This is where native people have thrived and survived for thousands of years. We’re an outdoor community, and we prioritize parks, trails and greenspaces. There is a lot of natural beauty, and I hope you have the chance to visit someday.

What do you see as the unique strengths of your community?

There are so many unique things about Anchorage and Alaska that I could probably go on all day! Anchorage residents are a resilient peoplewe take pride in doing things ourselves and helping our neighbors. I think it’s unique that we’re as far north as  Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki, some of the biggest leaders in climate action. That means even a northern city like Anchorage has the opportunity to be a climate leader in the United States and in the world.

What do you see as its unique challenges or struggles?

Something that pervades our everyday life is that we’ve been overly dependent on oil and gas extraction, and it makes it really hard for people to think beyond those sources of revenue and economic development. That revenue has helped build a lot of our infrastructure, but it’s also made it very difficult to diversify [our energy sources]. A lot of people are directly dependent on the oil and gas sector and see discussions of climate change as a threat to that. I get that, but I think that we’ve had these blinders on for too long. Our state has really buried its head in the sand and frankly we can’t afford to push it off any longer. 

What do you think people would be surprised to learn about your community?

So many things! There are more than 100 native Alaskan and international languages spoken in Anchorageour diversity is really cool. When we were creating our Climate Action Plan, we really tried to engage every community and collect their input. It was really important to us because we know that it is these underrepresented populations that see the biggest impacts from climate change. It’s important that we don’t assume that we know what is best for all of our populations. 

In fact, we are creating a Climate Equity Council that can help throughout Climate Action Plan implementation, to give input from different communities on what the priority is, what would be most helpful, where do we start, and what are we missing? It’s gone a little slower than I hoped, but it’s not easy and we’re trying to do it the right way.

What would you advise to others trying to tackle a community issue?

What I would say is don’t be afraid to engage your community. When we started doing outreach, I was very concerned that people were going to yell at me, and that was not the case. More and more, the business community and conservative districts weren’t pushing back like I expected. It turns out your average person is living the effects of climate change, so they aren’t surprised, even if they are wary of what actions you propose. I’m not excited that we are experiencing climate change, but we absolutely are, and because it’s so pronounced here it’s hard to deny that. The conversation has been more at the forefront. The action has been slow to follow, but I do think that will come.

What do you hope Anchorage will be like in 20 years?

I love seeing the progress that we’ve been making, and so in 20 years I hope that not only are we seeing these projects completed, but that we also have the policies and programs in place to make these the norm. I want to see electric vehicles and chargers everywhere, more solar, wind and tidal energy, and us taking the lead in advanced architecture for cold climates. 

I also want to see workforce development not only keeping up but staying ahead of the curve and offering advanced energy and technology jobs and opportunities. I believe that the clean energy transition is an opportunity to allow us to diversify our resources and for future generations to thrive.

All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Leads: 

Shaina Kilcoyne Headshot

Shaina Kilcoyne has twelve years of experience advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy policies, programs and projects in Wisconsin and Alaska. As the Energy and Sustainability Manager for the Municipality of Anchorage, Shaina works on a broad range of energy and resiliency goals. She strives to collaborate with the many city departments, community entities and organizations, and local businesses to foster partnerships across disciplines to leverage shared goals. With a focus on equity and high impact opportunities, she led the development and adoption of Anchorage’s first Climate Action Plan and recently led the development of a new clean energy financing program. 

 

Community Scientist:

Haley Crim Headshot

Haley Crim is an independent climate researcher working on community-centered climate action and climate and energy justice. She has previously completed greenhouse gas inventories for cities in Illinois and Maine, including one that won the city of Park Forest, IL an A+ rating from the Carbon Disclosure Project. She is passionate about working with communities and has experience as both a city sustainability officer and as a contractor for local governments. Haley is originally from Maryland and holds a BS in Ecology and Earth Systems from Bates College.

 

Community Science Fellow:

Abra Atwood Headshot

Abra Atwood (she/her) is PhD Candidate in Earth Sciences at the University of Southern California, working with Dr. Josh West. Her work currently focuses on using geochemical tools to understand water/rock interaction in the subsurface and how Earth’s “critical zone” develops over time, specifically in the steep terrain of the Nepal Himalaya. She is also interested in the impact of climate change on mountain groundwater resources, for both local and downstream communities. She grew up in rural Vermont and received her BA in Geology from Middlebury College. After, she worked as a baker in Anchorage, Alaska for several years. She is passionate about community building in many aspects of her life, from scientific collaboration to hosting elaborate community dinners.