Climate change refers to human made changes to the atmosphere that are causing unnatural changes in climate. A layer of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – act as a thermal blanket of the Earth, allowing sunlight to enter the atmosphere, but blocking heat from escaping.
According to NASA, the burning of fossil fuels and increased deforestation has led to an increased concentration of greenhouse gasses and increases in Earth’s temperature. Scientists are not sure exactly what the heat increases will mean, but it is certain to change conditions on the planet as we know it.
We’re Still In
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced on February 26th, 2019 a series of commitments to lower greenhouse gas emissions and stem the causes of climate change. This includes signing on to the “We Are Still In” declaration – a promise to world leaders that Americans will not retreat from the global pact to reduce emissions.
Howard County will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of County government operations 45 percent below 2010 levels by the year 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2050. This will be accomplished by reducing County energy use, lowering fleet fuel consumption, and increasing renewable energy generation on County property. Because of these commitments, the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) has designated Howard County one of Maryland’s Smart Energy Communities and provided an initial grant of $75,000 to improve the energy efficiency in public buildings. By 2024, Howard County is committing to:
- Obtain 20 percent of the power for local government operations from renewable sources, especially solar power generated on County property.
- Reduce petroleum fuel consumption in the County fleet by 20 percent, by improving the average fuel economy of the fleet, reducing idling, and increasing the number of electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
- Cut energy use in its facilities by 25 percent, well beyond the required 15 percent reduction, making Howard County the first jurisdiction to go beyond state requirements.
Howard County also is the first county in the nation to accept the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands Challenge. The challenge calls on jurisdictions to increase carbon sequestration in forests, farms, and other lands.
County Executive Ball also announced specific initiatives to move toward these important goals, including:
- Adding almost 10,000 additional homes to the curbside food scraps collection program starting April 1, 2019.
- Converting nearly 8,000 streetlights to energy-efficient, long-lasting LEDs.
- Implementing a routine, systematic, and detailed investigation of energy use at all County buildings to identify and address energy inefficiencies.
- Increasing the target efficiency of the new circuit courthouse from LEED Silver to Gold status.
- Actively pursuing installation of 25 new, electric vehicle charging stations at County facilities.
To see video of the County Executive’s announcement, please click here. To access photos of the event, please click here. To learn more about Howard County’s commitments under the We Are Still In declaration, visit Howard County’s We’re Still In webpage.
Climate Action Plan
An updated 2022 Climate Action Plan is underway. A contractor has been hired and research has begun. To learn more about the 2022 Climate Action Plan, watch the kick-off presentation that was made to the Environmental Sustainability Board here. To learn about future opportunities for public input, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Notices and updates will also be posted in the Live Green Howard newsletter. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter here.
The new Climate Action Plan will focus on a county-wide greenhouse inventory, mitigation strategies, a climate vulnerability assessment, and resiliency. The plan will pay particular attention to vulnerable populations.
Previous Climate action plans
In 2007, Howard County became the second county in the country to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Under the Agreement, Howard County committed to take the following three actions: strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets, urge Maryland state government and the federal government to meet or beat the set target of 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012.
The first step Howard County took to reach the targets was to develop a comprehensive greenhouse gas emission inventory and a Climate Action Plan. The inventory measured greenhouse gas emissions for County government operations and also for the community as a whole.
The reduction targets were met and in 2015, Howard County updated the Climate Action Plan, measuring the accomplishments and challenges presented by the first plan and setting new targets. The plan also outlines ways to accomplish the targets.
Both plans can be found here:
Energy Task Force
The Howard County Energy Task Force, convened by the Environmental Sustainability Board, was a collection of local experts who advised the County Executive regarding planning for future energy use in the County. The Energy Task Force met monthly in 2016 (with the exception of August) and completed their report in January 2017. The report contains recommendations in the areas of Energy Management and Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Workforce Development and Job Creation, and Energy Reliability and Resiliency.
The report and summary presentation can be found here:
Energy Task Force Members
Howard County’s Office of Emergency Management has developed Emergency Plans which include planning for utility disruption. You can also learn about Howard County Hazard Assessments for more information.