Data Blog

2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The 2015 GHG Inventory Update is now available (PDF, 2.6 MB). The Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) established a baseline communitywide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory for 2010 and a back cast inventory for 1990 as part of the Climate Action 2020 and Beyond plan. The RCPA completed this 2015 inventory update to help track progress towards achieving our short and long-term emissions reduction goals.

Sonoma County Emissions in 2015 remain 9% below 1990 levels, while countywide population grew 4% and gross domestic product (GDP) increased 22%. This local trend of GDP and population growth decoupling from emissions is encouraging and in-line with statewide trends. Yet, without increasing the speed at which our county reduces GHG emissions, we will not achieve the countywide reduction goal of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

This 2015 inventory report represents a milestone in our work to reduce countywide emissions. Four Sonoma County cities experienced a slight increase in total emissions while five cities showed a slight decrease. Yet, overall, lack of progress in total countywide emission reductions from 2010 highlight significant challenges ahead. We are confident that countywide reduction goals can be reached if each jurisdiction, with support of member agencies, prioritizes emissions reduction efforts by continuing to implement their jurisdiction-specific measures outlined in CA2020.

Key Findings

Emissions from energy used in buildings decreased 33% between 2010 and 2015, exceeding the short-term CA2020 reduction goal of 27% by 2020. This reduction is largely attributed to new electricity supplier, Sonoma Clean Power, which was created in 2014 to provide cleaner electricity to Sonoma County households and businesses.

Transportation is the largest source of emissions for the county; over 60% of total countywide emissions were from transportation in 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, vehicle miles traveled by residents and employees within the county increased by approximately 260,000 daily miles.

Emissions from waste sent to landfills increased 35% between 2010 and 2015 due to an increase in both landfilled waste and improved reporting methods specific to Sonoma County waste management.

Total Emissions by Source*

* 2020 Goal of 2.97M MT CO2e

Next Steps

Our next GHG inventory update will reflect our commitment to identifying and addressing key barriers to decreasing transportation emissions by providing more in depth analysis on our community wide fleet. This will also help us track progress on the measures outlined in our Shift Plan which are focused on increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road, installing EV infrastructure, and encouraging other clean, efficient modes of transportation.

The October 2017 wildfires tremendously impacted Sonoma County, its residents, and the environment. The impact of the fires on countywide greenhouse gas emissions will be reflected in our next inventory update which will detail 2018 emissions and will be released in 2020.

Preliminary 2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Earth Day is a time to celebrate the natural beauty of our planet and reflect on what we can do to keep the planet healthy. This sneak peak of Sonoma County’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2015 reveals successes and focuses our attention on areas we need to improve.

The Sonoma County preliminary greenhouse gas inventory update for 2015 shows countywide emissions to be about 9% below 1990 levels in 2015, very similar to total emissions for 2010. This reduction of emissions occurred while Sonoma County’s population and economy grew. A comprehensive 2015 greenhouse gas inventory update, with a breakdown of jurisdiction specific emissions, will be released this summer. This full report will dive deeper into steps needed to achieve our emissions reduction goals outlined in Climate Action 2020, while examining emissions at the city-scale.

Climate Action 2020 and Tracking Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) was formed in 2009 to coordinate countywide climate protection efforts among Sonoma County’s nine cities and multiple agencies. The RCPA worked with stakeholders to develop Climate Action 2020 and Beyond as a playbook for organized climate action in Sonoma County. Climate Action 2020 included Sonoma County’s first jurisdiction-specific countywide greenhouse gas inventory.

Tracking emissions data and trends is critical to understanding the role local communities play in reducing emissions while planning for growth and prosperity. Through the Climate Action 2020 project, the RCPA evaluated historic, baseline, and future emissions in Sonoma County using internationally accepted community scale protocols and locally specific, activity-based emissions data.

Historic data revealed a decline in emissions since 1990, but the forecasts showed that in the absence of new actions, local emissions will again rise. The work of the RCPA, its members, and partners, focuses on driving a continued downward trajectory in community-wide emissions, towards the short-term goal of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and the long-term goal of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Explore GHG data and reports.

2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update

2015 is an important milestone because it is the midway point between the 2010 baseline inventory and the 2020 short-term emissions reduction target. Key takeaways from the initial 2015 greenhouse gas inventory analysis are outlined in the snapshot below:

● Emissions in 2015 remain 9% below 1990 levels, while the population grew about 4% and gross domestic product (GDP) increased 22%. The decoupling of GDP and population growth from emissions shows that Sonoma County’s economy continues to become more sustainable.

● Emissions from energy used in buildings decreased 34% from about 1.2 million metric tons to approximately 820,000 metric tons between 2010 and 2015. This reduction is largely attributed to Sonoma Clean Power, which was created in 2014 to provide cleaner electricity to Sonoma County. PG&E also increased the availability of renewable electricity for consumers.

● Transportation is the largest source of emissions for the county; over 60% of total countywide emissions were from transportation in 2015. Vehicle miles traveled by residents and employees within the county increased by approximately 260,000* daily miles between 2010 and 2015.  

● Emissions from sending waste to landfills increased 35% between 2010 and 2015. Unlike between 1990 and 2010, the diversion of waste from landfills has not increased. Economic growth resulted in increased consumption and more waste sent to our landfills.

● Countywide emissions from water conveyance and wastewater processing decreased 10% between 2010 and 2015. This largely resulted from efforts lead by the Sonoma County Water Agency to procure 100% of their electricity needs through renewable and carbon free sources.

*Previously estimated at 500,000 daily miles.

Methodology

This greenhouse gas inventory update follows the US Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which provides detailed methodologies tailored for local government jurisdictions and agencies working to track emissions in the United States. This is an activity-based inventory that captures the primary sources of emissions that can be reduced through the actions of local governments and regional entities. Methodologies for calculating greenhouse gas inventories are continually evolving and changing. The RCPA will continue to monitor and incorporate best practices for inventorying emissions to meet our ambitious GHG reduction goals.

What’s to Come

The RCPA is working with partners to better understand and address the upward trends in emissions from transportation and solid waste shown in this snapshot. The RCPA recently released the final draft of the Shift Sonoma County Plan, which defines and evaluates strategies to shift transportation away from single occupant vehicles towards, cleaner, healthier and more efficient modes of transportation. The RCPA is also working with the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency to help guide Sonoma County towards zero waste standards.

A detailed 2015 greenhouse gas inventory update will be available this summer. This update will include emissions data specific for each jurisdiction in Sonoma County. Join our email list to receive notifications on the full greenhouse gas inventory update in the coming months!

The October 2017 wildfires tremendously impacted Sonoma County, its residents, and the environment. The impact of the fires on greenhouse gas emissions will be reflected in future inventories. We are inspired by the strength of our community and the work to rebuild a stronger, more resilient Sonoma County and will work with partners to develop strategies towards a low carbon recovery.