Climate experts from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) are briefing the DC Council tomorrow about COG’s Climate Change Report. Produced by a steering committee co-chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh, MoCoCo’s Nancy Floreen and Fairfax’s Gerry Connolly (likely the next Congressman from NoVa), the report gives 78 recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Washington region.
After listing the clear and overwhelming evidence for global warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, it divides recommendations into those for energy consumption (heating, lighting, commercial operations, residential appliances, etc.) and transportation and land use. Since 30% of emissions come from transportation (the report claims), 30% of the recommendations cover reducing vehicle emissions and VMT.
Transportation-related recommendations include incentives for buying hybrids, shifting short trips from driving to other modes, promoting car sharing, mixed-use and transit-oriented development, transit expansion, bicycle and pedestrian paths, focusing new development around walkable areas, and more good ideas.
Of course, the real issue is implementation. At the same time MoCoCo’s Floreen and Roger Berliner, Prince George’s Councilmember Camille Exum, and Maryland Department of the Environment officials were devising these recommendations, Maryland was hard at work blowing most of the state’s transportation budget on the ICC, which violates nearly every recommendation in the report. Prince George’s is putting their development far from transit. Virginia is doing a bit better in the policy department by pushing for Dulles Metrorail and many smaller transit improvements, but is also pouring huge money into widening the Beltway, which will surely not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These projects have been on the board for many years. If regional officials are serious about curbing climate change, they need to step up and start pushing different priorities. Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells plan some environmental legislation this fall, and I look forward to that. We should expect Floreen, Berliner, Exum, Connolly, Fairfax’s John Foust, Loudoun’s Andrea McGimsey, Alexandria’s Del Pepper, Falls Church’s David Snyder, and all the other members of the Climate Change Steering Committee to put their votes where their mouths are and change the course of transportation spending and land use decisions in DC and, especially, the suburbs.
You can hear more about the report tomorrow (Tuesday), from 10 am to noon at the Wilson Building (1350 Penn. NW), Room 412.