Climate Action Plan for the City of Houston – A Start, But a Slow One

Houston Climate Action Plan - A Start, But a Slow One

By John Beath

Jul 27

The city of Houston has just published its draft Climate Action Plan for comment.

While the mere fact that Houston has developed a sustainability plan is noteworthy and encouraging, it sets an impressive goal, but does not really prescribe the steps to get there.

The plan points out that:
“Houston is one of the largest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the country with 14.9 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita per year. A baseline of greenhouse gas emissions inventory was developed using 2014 data to guide the CAP strategies and track the implementation progress. In 2014, Houston residents and businesses generated nearly 35 million tons of greenhouse gases through carbon-fueled buildings, cars, and waste. As Houston gains population, jobs, and buildings each year, the associated projected emissions also grow; thus, Houston needs to define an ambitious agenda for the future.”

In it’s related access web page they say:
“In 2014 Houston emitted 34.3 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Houston’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are transportation (47%) and commercial and residential buildings (49%). Other sources of emissions include manufacturing, waste, and fugitive emissions (4%).”

No prescribed actions in the plan have their contributions quantified in the quest to make the city government operations net-zero by 2050. There is no mention of impacting the city’s transportation impacts outside of the municipal actions proposed.

Somewhere, transportation reductions will need to be approached by tactics that would actually move the public needle. Ride on the city freeways most any day and the problem will be clear – time spent in stalled traffic coupled with high average commuter travel distances. There is no plan for mass transportation, so reductions will need to be achieved some other way.

Some things to consider are:

– Better traffic management during freeway and lane closures for construction – placing signage far enough away so motorists can get in the right lanes sooner
– Wider dissemination of construction closures so more motorists will be informed as they head out (local resident drivers may not consult a GPS app if they know where they are going)
– Lower costs on express lanes if more people are in the car
– Eliminating cash use on toll roads so traffic does not wait in lines
– More spending on traffic signal optimization to reduce waits at traffic lights
– Developing phone apps that can plan an efficient trip if there are multiple stops
– Campaign to discourage use of drive-thru windows when lines are long
– Encouraging drivers to seek shady parking (especially in garages) to reduce air conditioning burden when leaving the parking
– Encouraging homeowners to use their garages for their cars to increase vehicle lifetime and reduce air conditioning burden
– Media campaign to encourage auto owners to check their tire pressure monthly to reduce additional burden due to low tire pressure
– For multi-car owners, media campaign to decrease pick-up truck use for commuting in favor of a higher MPG vehicle (given the cost for a pick-up truck, using it less will make it last a lot longer)

There are many more ideas that don’t involve driving more efficient cars, but that is perhaps the fastest impact.

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