A Bottom-up Approach to Setting a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for Charlotte, North Carolina

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In 2007, Charlotte’s City Council passed a resolution directing City staff to: (1) Inventory City Operations Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions; (2) Establish aggressive and realistic GHG emission reduction targets; (3) Create an action plan; (4) Prepare a cost-benefit analysis; and (5) Adopt a budget to meet the emission reduction targets. The objective of this project is to update the inventory of GHG emissions from City operations and recommend a GHG emissions target, based on research into best practices as well as economic and technical feasibility.
Several considerations are important to the City in the selection of a GHG emission reduction target. First, many other cities have set ambitious emission reduction targets that appear unlikely to be met by their respective target dates. Charlotte does not want to set an unattainable target that fails to consider technical and economic feasibility. In addition, the City hopes to set an example for the community by setting an aggressive target and by making consistent and visible progress towards reducing emissions. First, we interviewed a number of peer organizations, including other municipalities, universities and corporations. The purpose of this stage of our project was to investigate how comparable organizations set GHG emissions reduction targets and to document best practices for climate action planning. Our findings suggest that there is no accepted process for choosing a GHG emissions reduction target and many organizations set targets with little or no analysis into the economic or technical feasibility of achieving that target.
The remainder of our work focused on identifying potential GHG reduction projects for the City and determining alternate emissions reduction scenarios. We decided on a bottom-up approach (starting with individual business units before creating an organization-wide strategy) to fit with Charlotte’s unique decentralized structure. Potential greenhouse gas reduction projects were identified through collaboration with five of the City’s key business units. These projects were incorporated into different scenarios based on several key factors. Using these scenarios as a basis, we believe that the most likely GHG emissions reduction that the City can achieve under current financial, technical, and political constraints is approximately 1% per year.





Brewer, Shannon, Emily Martin and Lisa Thompson (2011). A Bottom-up Approach to Setting a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for Charlotte, North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/3644.

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