A new emissions inventory for the city of Concord points to potential climate change solutions as the state capital works to sharply lower its greenhouse gas emissions.
Concord’s city council set its climate change goals in 2018. They want all electricity used locally to come from renewable sources by 2030, and the same for heating, cooling and transportation by 2050.
UNH sustainability fellow Amina Grant, a doctoral student at the University of Iowa, spent the summer analyzing Concord's emissions and summarized her findings at a media briefing Tuesday.
"It helped us understand what data goes into these inventories from a top-down approach, and to find out what sources contributed the most and what sectors contributed the most,” she said. “But it also made clear what new directions need to be explored further."
Grant found that local government emissions only made up 2% of Concord’s overall footprint – while commercial and industrial sources contributed 50% and residents 48%. To that end, Grant recommended that the city look into which businesses are the biggest emitters and work with residents on improving household practices.
Overall, her data shows that transitioning off natural gas use and better weatherizing buildings will be key – as will moving to the widespread use of electric vehicles with charging infrastructure and incentives.
“Concord can encourage and promote electric vehicle purchasing or have a program for trading in old cars for residents,” she said. She also recommends developing bike lanes and walkability, and transitioning municipal and business fleets to EVs.
Her report also says only a small portion of Concord’s emissions were sequestered by public lands, which makes more conservation another key climate change solution.
In 2019, Grant said, Concord emitted close to half a million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s roughly equivalent to the emissions from driving 1.2 billion miles in an average car, according to an Environmental Protection Agency calculator.
With no action, and projected population growth, Grant says Concord's city-wide emissions will increase about 11% in the next 30 years.
By contrast, she said, the city could cut its total emissions 40% by 2030 through going all-renewable for electricity and getting 35% of the way there for thermal and transportation.
Concord’s emissions were about 15% higher in 2019 than that of a similarly sized city, Burlington, Vermont, in 2013 – the latest year when data was available there.
A 2018 modeling project found that worldwide, emissions are concentrated in affluent urban centers. Just 100 cities drive 18% of global emissions, it said, and more than half of countries see more than a quarter of emissions come from their three largest cities.