ABOUT THE REGION
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is an independent, nonprofit association that brings area leaders together to address major regional issues in the District of Columbia (D.C.), suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, an area with a population of almost five million with an additional 1.6 million moving to the region by 2040. COG’s membership is comprised of 300 elected officials from 22 local governments, the Maryland and Virginia state legislatures, and US Congress.
The region ranked 13 of 15 in terms of growth among major US metro areas in 2011. While federal government spending was once the driving force of the region’s economy, today the combination of decreased federal spending and ongoing budget uncertainty is pushing metropolitan Washington dangerously close to a fiscal cliff. The region has several advantages, including an educated workforce, entrepreneurial climate, international connections, transit-oriented activity centers, and access to the federal government.
In the Metropolitan Washington region, the average annual temperature has risen about 4°F. Sea level has risen almost 10 inches over the past 80 years. This warming is driving changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. DC has experienced several extreme weather events in recent years. Changes in the number of hot days and cold days may affect energy usage patterns, health (e.g., asthma), plant and animal habitats, and infrastructure function (e.g., buckling of concrete roads).
ABOUT THIS COLLABORATIVE
COG’s Climate, Energy and Environment Policy Committee (CEEPC) was created by the association’s board in 2009 as its principal policy advisor on climate change and other environmental issues. Membership of the CEEPC includes representatives from COG’s 22 member-governments, state agencies, state legislatures, the Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee, federal agencies, utilities, environmental organizations, business organizations, and academics.
CEEPC recognized that the region needed a more formal structure to bring relevant regional stakeholders together and called for the development of a Metropolitan Washington Resiliency Network. CEEPC also identified tasks for the network over the next fiscal year such as developing a regional definition of resilience, creating a regional resiliency vision, and identifying current resiliency initiatives in the region.
CEEPC’s Climate and Energy Action Plan is a roadmap toward meeting the goals of reducing regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Categories and sub-goals include:
- Built Environment and Infrastructure: Reducing non-transportation energy consumption by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020
- Renewable Energy: Increasing the share of renewable energy to 10 percent of total regional electricity consumption
- Transportation and Land Use: Minimizing the greenhouse gas impact of regional transportation systems by reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing the use of alternative fuel and high-efficiency vehicles
- Sustainability and Resiliency: Increasing the resiliency and sustainability of the region’s infrastructure, economy, and environment
- Outreach: Improving public understanding of climate change and promote positive change in individual and institutional behaviors to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and increase use of renewable energy
PROMISING PRACTICES AND INNOVATIONS
- COG just completed a yearlong collaborative climate resilience planning process with NASA, federal agencies, DC, Arlington, and Alexandria. At least 50 regional representatives participated in workshops and webinars to prepare for climate impacts to built systems, natural systems, and people. As part of this project, NASA developed downscaled regional climate information that COG and other stakeholders will use to inform resiliency initiatives moving forward. NASA also developed similiar downscaled climate information for NASA centers around the country to work on resiliency. There is potential for that information to be shared with the communities around those centers or perhaps be developed for other regions.
- Montgomery County is currently developing efforts to build public private partnerships to foster localized energy supply on county facilities. The county is preparing to deploy solar photovoltaic (PV) systems owned and operated by third-parties across several dozen county facilities. The county has also issued a well-received solicitation for microgrids on county campuses and buildings with an emphasis on critical facilities such as public safety and public transit operations.
- Montgomery County, in concert with efforts to install ground-mounted PV systems, is incorporating requirements to co-locate pollinator-friendly native ground cover to increase habitat for micro fauna that may be suffering from a changing climate. The county anticipates issuing a public private partnership opportunity to get bee keepers to maintain hives adjacent to these areas, increasing the supply of local foods and maintaining bee populations.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
- Creating a regional climate resiliency network given that authority over implementation and allocation of public resources in the National Capital Region rests with numerous federal, state and local governments (and in some cases with various utilities and public service commissions).
- Working together to help build a business case (such as using specialized information, anecdotes, and framing techniques, such as emphasizing economic development co-benefits, or the costs of inaction) with policymakers and decision-makers and find creative funding mechanisms in existing budgets for climate resiliency studies, plans, and projects that benefit the region.
- Determining the measures needed to appropriately insulate public infrastructure, facilities, and fleets in coastal and inland areas.
- Building climate considerations automatically into replacement and upgrades.