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In its ongoing efforts to be a leader in energy efficiency and sustainability, the City of West Palm Beach updated its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, comparing 2013 results to an original 2008 baseline. This inventory measures total energy consumption and GHG emissions from two categories: municipal government operations and the community at large. Measuring emissions is an important component of managing the city’s contributions to climate change and identifying where the greatest opportunities exist to reduce those impacts. This 2013 GHG inventory is the first update since the 2008 baseline inventory and serves as a significant milestone in documenting the city’s progress toward sustainability.

Within five years, the city demonstrated significant progress – for government buildings and operations, emissions dropped by 11%, from 81,834 metric tons CO₂e in 2008 to 72,489 metric tons in 2013. At the community scale, emissions decreased by 5%, from 5,513,890 metric tons of CO₂e in 2008 to 5,256,748 in 2013. The downward trend demonstrates the city is well on track to meet or exceed the reduction target established in its Sustainability Action Plan of 19% by 2018.

Implementation Process

Essential to the process of conducting any greenhouse gas inventory is laying the groundwork for tracking this data over time. An inventory establishes a baseline emissions level, which is only useful if used to track progress on actions taken to reduce emissions. The original GHG emission inventory was conducted as part of the development of the West Palm Beach Rethink Paradise Sustainability Action Plan (SAP). The city issued an request for proposals, with Lewis Longman and Walker contracted to assist in the overall collaborative effort with city staff, community businesses, residents, and visitors. Energy, water, wastewater, transportation, and other pertinent data was collected and the GHG baseline was established in compliance with the Local Government Operations Protocol.

Efforts then began to reduce impacts and measure results. An American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, along with a $6.8 million energy performance contract and Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge participation, contributed to significant progress toward government operations, while a commercial PACE education and outreach programs and incentives targeted the community as a whole.

The 2013 GHG update was completed with the assistance of Deady Law and Associates. Included in both reports were the methodology section, which outlines the steps taken, assumptions made, and data used to calculate the baseline emissions. The 2013 GHG emissions inventory demonstrates significant progress in the city’s sustainability goals. However, as West Palm Beach, like the rest of Florida and the country, emerges from the recent recession, growth and increased economic activity may result in increased emissions if the city does not continue to implement strategies.

Implementation Timeline

The original GHG inventory was completed in June 2011 along with the SAP, and used 2008 as the baseline year. The 2013 update was completed in September 2014 and took approximately seven months from contract initiation to final product.

Implementation Funding

In 2008, Mayor Lois Frankel budgeted funds to get the City Sustainability Initiative started, which included staff awareness training, an evaluation of community and municipal GHG emissions, and development of the SAP. The five-year GHG update was paid through the office of sustainability budget.

Community Benefits

At the community level, emissions decreased by 5% from 5,513,890 metric tons of CO2e in 2008 to 5,256,748 in 2013. This shows an overall improvement for West Palm Beach. In fact, all sectors decreased and community emissions are trending lower than forecasted compared to a business as usual scenario from 2008 and a scenario that includes both reduced emissions from motor vehicles and a 30 percent waste diversion plan. With lower emissions, the city can see improved air quality, which may result in lower respiratory illnesses in the area. coordinated efforts will also make the city more resilient and contribute to a regional commitment to lower the area’s carbon footprint through the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact.

The Facts

Quick Facts & Statistics

  • Smart energy management practices at the Warren Hawkins Aquatic Center have produced significant energy and associated GHG emissions savings. By heating the pool only seasonally instead of year-round, natural gas use was cut by 85%, saving $23,000 annually.