OCS Releases Climate Action and Resiliency Plan Preliminary Report

December 2022

On Monday, Dec. 12th the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability released the Preliminary Report of Howard County’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan titled HoCo Climate Forward.

Once completed, the document, will be an update and expansion on previous climate action planning. However, different from past climate action plans, HoCo Climate Forward also focuses on resiliency efforts and underserved communities.

The preliminary report overviews the risks and impacts of climate change in Howard County, key vulnerabilities, our community wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, the County’s new climate goals, and proposed climate solutions.

Once HoCo Climate Forward is completed it will serve as a science-based and shovel-ready work plan for every department and level of Howard County government, as well as a great resource for our external partners.

When developing the report Howard County created a community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory to identify current sources and drivers of emissions. The County focused on three main sectors: transportation, built environment and solid waste.

Through the process, Howard County calculated that without additional action, the County’s emissions from both public and private sources will increase by 3% and 5% in 2030 and 2045 respectively, when compared to 2019 levels. The County attributes this primarily to population growth.

Fortunately, Howard County has already made significant progress. Community-wide GHG emissions have decreased 16% over 2005 levels, as of 2019. However, this is not sufficient to combat the worst effects of climate change. As a result, in October Howard County Executive Calvin Ball issued an executive order announcing the County’s newest climate goals. Howard County commits to reducing GHG emissions 60% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2045, surpassing state and federal goals.

In addition to overviewing these new climate goals, the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan preliminary report outlines governance, mitigation, and resiliency strategies for combating climate change and its effects.

Governance strategies include establishing a Climate Action Subcabinet, integrating equity and inclusivity into all climate action, and prioritizing climate action in all aspects of government planning and operations.

Mitigation strategies are broken down into energy, transportation, waste, and nature-based solutions. Energy strategies include reducing GHG emissions from existing buildings, constructing efficient and low carbon buildings, and decarbonizing the energy supply. Transportation strategies include maximizing the use of electric vehicles and reducing vehicle miles traveled in single occupancy vehicles. Waste strategies include reducing organic waste sent to landfills, managing landfill methane, and expanding the use of sustainable materials in government procurement. Nature based strategies include improving soil health, increasing carbon sequestration, conserving existing forests, and expanding the tree canopy.

Changes to Howard County’s climate will have negative impacts on human health, natural systems, basic services, infrastructure, and other aspects of the community. Extreme heat and flooding are expected to be the most dangerous hazards. In addition, the impacts of climate change will not be felt uniformly but will differ by geography and populations. The resiliency strategies in the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan aim to address these hazards.

Resiliency strategies include becoming a model for excellent communication about hazards, emergency preparedness and available resources, improving access to emergency shelters and heating/cooling/comfort centers, increasing the resiliency of buildings, reducing heat islands, prioritizing stormwater management, and maximizing benefits derived from ecosystem services.

In summary, the strategies outlined in the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan preliminary report include efforts to reduce GHG emissions, increase carbon storage, and increase the resiliency of infrastructure, ecosystems, and communities to expected changes in weather and climate.

The County is seeking public comment on the document now until Jan 30. 2023. This is an extension of the previous date of Jan 12t. To submit comments, please email ocs@howardcountymd.gov with “HoCo CAP Comments” in the subject line. The full preliminary report can be viewed here.