Concord’s Carbon Footprint: The City Releases First Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory
The City of Concord released its first ever Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, led by Sustainability Fellow Amina Grant and conducted as a collaboration between the City of Concord and the University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute. Grant presented the results to City Council on August 10, and the report is now available on the City of Concord website.
The work was conducted to help the City identify its major greenhouse gas emissions sources to set priorities for reducing emissions and meeting the city’s climate and energy commitments, including those under the NH Climate Action Plan, the Climate Mayors Agreement, and the City’s draft 100% Renewable Energy Goal. The study’s results will also serve as a baseline for future emissions tracking.
In 2019, the Concord community released an estimated 495,905 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e). For context, a metric ton is about the weight of a small car.
Major findings indicate that the commercial sector (which also includes public and private institutions and industrial uses) accounted for 50% of the community’s emissions, the residential sector accounted for 48%, and the local government operations accounted for 2%. Community-wide, fuel used to heat and cool buildings (such as natural gas, propane, oil, and wood pellets) was the largest source of emissions (35%), followed by transportation fuel (28%), electricity use (18%), and industrial processes (15%). Other sources of emissions included solid waste generation, wastewater treatment, and fertilizer use. Tree cover from forests in Concord comprised a carbon sink, offsetting nearly 12,500 (MT CO2e) in 2019. The city’s Sustainable Tree Program contributed to this by adding 50 trees in 2019, or 279 trees since the program began.
Results indicate that in order for the city to meet GHG emissions reduction targets that scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change (45% of 2010 GHG emissions reductions by 2030), the community should pursue multiple strategies simultaneously beginning now and over the next decade. These include weatherization and improving energy efficiency in all buildings, transitioning electricity systems to solar and wind, and the electrification of heating systems and cars. The City should also work to implement other options such as improving walkability and bike-ability and improving transit systems.
Amina Grant, the lead author, notes, “The results indicate the importance of engaging the whole community in reaching energy commitments and reducing emissions. Large institutions and businesses in Concord should act as leaders in reducing their emissions and mentoring others. Moreover, there are many actions households can take to reduce emissions.” The study suggests conducting a household carbon emissions survey, while providing information on how homeowners can reduce their carbon footprints.
At the municipal level, a few facilities contributed the majority of emissions, including the two wastewater treatment plants, the water treatment plant, the Everett Arena, and the Combined Operations Management Facility. Prioritizing improvements at these facilities would be a good first step for reducing city emissions. “We are happy that we will be breaking ground this year on a solar installation at the Hall Street wastewater treatment plant, which is a start to this process,” notes City Councilor Rob Werner. “It’s important to develop clean energy sources within the City of Concord to help control our energy costs and provide a positive example of leadership and action on the local level.”
Sam Durfee, the Senior City Planner involved in the study, notes that, “The city has undertaken energy audits for improving the efficiency of old buildings and reducing natural gas and electricity usage. This will also reduce the city’s energy costs.”
“The City of Concord Administration and Concord residents will benefit from the very detailed work that comprised the GHG inventory,” said Concord Mayor Jim Bouley. “It is important to develop baseline data so that progress can be measured, and the city is appreciative to UNH for the Sustainability Fellowship Program for a valuable partnership that will assist the city in meeting its ambitious 100% renewable energy goals.”
A full copy of the report can be found on the City of Concord Website, Concord Energy and Environment Advisory Committee Page in the Documents section.