Climate Action

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In recognition of the serious threat climate change poses to our environment and community, San Juan County resolved to respond and adapt to climate change with Resolution 20-2020. Since 2020, the County has implemented actions following our 20-2020 resolution to address climate action. The Climate Progress Report outlines activities implemented between 2020-2021 by the County to deliver on our environmental stewardship.

In 2021, the County’s Climate & Sustainability Program was established to further mobilize the effort to foster a climate-resilient, regenerative community. Our current priority is the development of a comprehensive and effective Climate Action Plan that meets our

In recognition of the serious threat climate change poses to our environment and community, San Juan County resolved to respond and adapt to climate change with Resolution 20-2020. Since 2020, the County has implemented actions following our 20-2020 resolution to address climate action. The Climate Progress Report outlines activities implemented between 2020-2021 by the County to deliver on our environmental stewardship.

In 2021, the County’s Climate & Sustainability Program was established to further mobilize the effort to foster a climate-resilient, regenerative community. Our current priority is the development of a comprehensive and effective Climate Action Plan that meets our community’s needs.

The Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee was established by the San Juan County Council in early 2022 to ensure coordination and communication of actions across departments and to feed into existing County advisory committees and commissions. The committee advises on policy, helps set priorities, and harnesses the momentum of existing work to help steer the County’s climate action plan. The goal is to provide opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas and to increase collaboration around climate and sustainability efforts throughout San Juan County.

Climate Action Plan
San Juan County is cultivating a climate action plan that will provide residents and businesses with policy and guidance to help make informed decisions with sustainability and climate change in mind.

This project is a result of collaboration between local stakeholders, climate experts, and community members, ensuring that it reflects the unique needs and aspirations of San Juan County. By providing a roadmap for sustainable practices, promoting renewable energy adoption, encouraging responsible resource management, and fostering community engagement, this plan helps the County make the transformative shift towards a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient future.

As the climate action plan progresses and San Juan County introduces additional programming and sustainability efforts, this page will update with new information and materials that provide insight to the findings of the committee and others involved.

  • San Juan County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report Released

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    San Juan County has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from community sources and municipal operations to reduce the county’s carbon footprint. As a baseline step in this process, the County has completed a greenhouse gas inventory for the community and County operations. The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report is now available to view. Registered users on the Engage site may ask questions and learn more about climate action work.

    The Department of Environmental Stewardship engaged Cascadia Consulting to complete the inventory, and 2019 was chosen as the baseline year to avoid skewed results from the pandemic. The Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee gave feedback during the development of the inventory and reviewed the final report before recommending the County Council advance it to the public. The completed report includes inventories of geographic countywide emissions (emissions produced within San Juan County), consumption-based emissions (the carbon footprint for County households, which can include emissions inside or outside of the County), and the emissions associated with County government operations. This work serves as a starting point for the County to pursue climate action efforts that will target the most significant emission sources and reduce San Juan County’s overall contribution to climate change.

    Key Findings
    The results of the communitywide inventory indicate that San Juan County’s residents, businesses, and visitors produced an estimated 177,830 MTCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2019. The three largest sources of communitywide emissions were identified as Transportation (64%), Land Use (16%), and Building Energy (9%). The emissions associated with county household consumption reported in the consumption-based inventory totaled 308,000 MTCO2e, nearly double the geographic countywide emissions. Transportation (36%), services (23%), and food (21%) were the top categories in the consumption-based inventory. County operations produced an estimated 17,419 MTCO2e, equivalent to approximately 10% of communitywide emissions, with Tree Loss (94.5%) and Transportation (4.5%) as the largest emission sources.

    While the report provides a baseline for emissions in the Islands, County staff and the Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee have recognized the need for further refinement and clarification around the nuances that form the bigger picture.

    Forest Management and Wildfire Risk
    The committee notes that one of the most severe climate risks San Juan County faces is the risk of wildfire, exacerbated by forests overstocked with small trees. Actively managing forest lands includes forest thinning, which releases carbon, but it also provides an important ecosystem health and resilience benefit. By thinning forests of potential wildfire fuel, the County is mitigating the intensity of a future wildfire and increasing overall forest health. Accordingly, one of the biggest climate adaptation tasks the county faces is thinning our forests or otherwise managing forests for fire risk, even if doing so results in higher carbon emissions in the short or medium term, since wildfire is such a highly emitting event.

    It’s also important to note that tree loss does not account for sequestration benefits, which far offset loss; the report shows an estimated 420,000 MTCO2e sequestered by our tree canopy in contrast to the 23,000 MTCO2e of emissions from tree loss. Enhancing forest health ensures forests continue to be a valuable carbon sink well into the future.

    Transportation
    Looking further into the breakdown of transportation-related emissions, maritime emissions emerged as our biggest sources in the County, with ferries responsible for 54% and recreational boats an estimated 46%. Due to a lack of data from marinas, the consultants utilized the EPA MOVES model; while there was a good confidence level in this estimate, there is opportunity for further refinement of this metric in the future. While ferries are regulated at the State level, this highlights the opportunity and necessity to address the impacts of recreational boating locally.

    Additionally, on-road vehicles represented 18% of emissions in this category. It’s worth noting that better metrics to further refine visitor vehicle numbers and vehicle miles traveled are being pursued through our continued work in climate action as well as in the Destination Management Plan.

    Wood burning
    In the Building Energy category, wood burning for heat is noted as just .3% of total emissions. This number refers to anthropogenic emissions: the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from human production. The combustion of wood additionally releases biogenic emissions: the carbon contained in wood that would have been released naturally over time into the atmosphere without human intervention. The biogenic emissions are much greater at 18.7%, and both anthropogenic and biogenic must be considered to capture the full magnitude of wood burning for heat, which places it as a top emission source for San Juan County and therefore another important area of focus.

    Next Steps
    The County will use the information in this report to help set goals and policies for climate resilience and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Climate Planning Grant funding from Washington’s Department of Commerce will be applied to develop this work in coordination with the new climate element requirements for San Juan County’s Comprehensive Plan.

  • GHG Inventory Work Underway

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    The Greenhouse Gas Inventory (also known as the Baseline Climate Assessment) work has begun! Environmental Stewardship staff met with consultants from Cascadia Consulting to kick off the process earlier this week.

    Cascadia will prepare the following to set the stage for developing high-impact Climate Action Plan (CAP) and serve as the key indicator for monitoring and assessing progress over time:

    • Communitywide geographic GHG inventory

    • Communitywide consumption-based GHG inventory

    • County government operations GHG inventory

    The draft report is expected to be delivered by May/June 2023.

  • Council Presentation - Climate Action Update

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    Staff from the Department of Environmental Stewardship presented an update to the County Council today on the advancement of the Climate & Sustainability program's climate action work. They discussed why San Juan County needs a Climate Action Plan and highlighted key objectives, partners, departments and parallel planning processes.

    The presentation discussed the recommendation of the Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee to pursue a Baseline Climate Assessment as the next step and requested funding from Council to carry it out, which Council agreed to. You can view the presentation slides here.

  • Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee to Launch on the Eve of Earth Day

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    On April 22nd, an expected 1 billion people around the world will take action to protect our planet in observance of Earth Day. On the eve of Earth Day, April 21st, a group of citizens in San Juan County will come together to launch the work of the newly formed Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee. Here in the islands and around the world, we’ll be united under a common goal -- the theme of this year’s Earth Day event -- to Invest In Our Planet.


    While San Juan County has invested in the environment for more than a decade, last year County Council elevated the environmental resources team to the Department of Environmental Stewardship and added the Climate and Sustainability program to acknowledge the importance of this work. The Climate and Sustainability Advisory Committee will advise on policy, help set priorities, and harness the momentum of existing work to help steer the County’s climate action plan.

    We are pleased to introduce the new committee members, appointed by the County Council on April 5th, who will bring their expertise and experience to help launch this work.

    District 1 - San Juan

    Vincent Dauciunas, retired electrical engineer, currently on Opalco Board of Directors

    Adrian Kilpatrick, design/build business owner, farming/permaculture design specialist

    Barbara Marrett, Friday Harbor Port Commissioner, stewardship and conservation background

    District 2 - Orcas

    Janet Alderton, retired research biologist, active in conservation and planning

    Jay Kimball, climate change consultant, focus on mitigation, planning, and communication

    Michael Shanks, OIHS Spanish teacher, climate change educator


    District 3 - Lopez/Shaw

    Chris Greacen, renewable energy and rural development consultant, active in school initiatives

    Renee Koplan, Lopez Hospital District Interim Superintendent, biology/zoology background

    Oliver Whitfield, retired aerospace engineer and inventor, currently on Opalco Board of Directors


    Youth Representative

    Luke Fincher, current senior at FHHS, active community/conservation volunteer, pursuing dual major in Environmental Science & Psychology


    County Staff Representative

    Kendra Smith, Department of Environmental Stewardship Director


    Our community has responded with a groundswell of support for the formation of the County’s new Climate and Sustainability program. It is very apparent that county residents care deeply for the islands and are ready to take action to protect and preserve our home. The community is invited to take part in our committee meetings; please watch this page for meeting details. But outside the meeting room, citizens play a critical role in creating a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.


    Here are 3 ways you can take action this Earth Day, and every day:

    1. Cut your lawn in half and rewild

    Consider removing half your lawn (or more) and returning it to a natural state. Here in the San Juans, our land naturally supports a host of native flowers, grasses and trees. Not only will this help reduce significant emissions from lawn mowers and leaf blowers, it helps build critical biodiversity and conserves precious water resources.

    2. Eat less beef, more plants

    Beef production has a considerable environmental impact due to greenhouse gas emissions and land and water degradation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes plant-based diets as a major opportunity for mitigating and adapting to climate change and recommends reduced meat consumption.

    3. Drive less

    The math is simple: burn less fuel, generate fewer emissions, slow the pace of global warming. As we step into springtime, look for opportunities to leave the car parked and choose to walk, bike, or rideshare instead.


    Thank you for joining us in this partnership for the islands, and for the planet.

Page last updated: 13 Feb 2024, 02:54 PM