When it comes to efforts to combat climate change, Dane County is among the top local governments in the world, according to one recent assessment.
The CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) this year included the county on its “A list“ of 95 local governments leading in environmental transparency and action.
To receive the nonprofit organization’s “A” rating, local governments must have “ambitious but realistic” emissions reduction and renewable energy goals as well as climate risk assessments and plans for tackling climate hazards.
The county was among the top 10% of the 965 local governments scored by CDP in 2021. But with a combined population of about 108 million people, those top cities and counties represent barely 1% of the world’s population.
Dane County last year adopted a plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half over the coming decade, putting it “on a path” to decarbonization but falling short of the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, which scientists say is necessary to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
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In order to make the A list, governments must also publish an inventory of emissions data, which “is a substantial lift,” said Kathy Kuntz, director of the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change.
The county estimates its residents produced about 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2017, which works out to roughly 14 tons per person, or three times the global average.
That inventory, completed last year using the most current data available, was done at a cost of $80,000, half of which was covered by a grant.
Kuntz said the current plan is to update the inventory about every five years.
“Everyone sees the value in having current emissions data but it’s a substantial investment to keep things current,” Kuntz said. “That will keep us current while also ensuring that most of our resources are focused on reducing emissions rather than measurement activities.”
Last week the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy named Madison the most-improved city in the nation for clean energy policy as the city moved from 64th to 39th out of the top hundred.
While Madison was among the 38 cities tracking greenhouse gas emissions, it was not among the 19 the council considers on track to meet carbon reduction targets.