COG Backs Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan for Capital Region


WASHINGTON - Residents of Maryland, Virginia and the District need to turn down their thermostats, recycle more and drive less, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments agreed Wednesday.

Board members of the council, a 51-year-old advisory organization composed of members of 21 local governments, Congress and the Maryland and Virginia legislatures, overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding greenhouse-gas-reduction report.

The 94-page National Capital Region Climate Change Report, compiled over the past 18 months by the council's own Climate Change Steering Committee, says the region should seek to lower its greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent from current levels by 2012, to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

These numbers are slightly different from those recommended by the Maryland Climate Change Commission in August. That report uses 2006 as a baseline and aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 90 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.

Some of the Climate Change Steering Committee report's long-term suggestions include the establishment of carbon taxes by local governments and the development of a regional carbon-offset program, which would make municipalities and businesses financially support other carbon-reduction programs if they do not wish to undertake such programs themselves.

The greenhouse gases that have heated the planet an average of more than 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years are in large part due to "human activities" such as the burning of fossil fuels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Only one board member, Loudoun County, Va., Supervisor Lori Waters, voted against approval of the suggestions Wednesday, citing cost.

"While I do agree (something should be done to combat climate change), I don't support doing it by taxing my residents more," Waters said. "I'm not going to vote for this report."

While the report recommends that residents purchase hybrid vehicles and replace their conventional household appliances with energy efficient models, it also lists a handful of no- or low-cost actions people can take. These include lowering or raising the thermostat 2 degrees, depending on the season, driving 10 fewer miles per week and setting computers to their energy-saving modes.

Climate Change Steering Committee chairwoman and Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen said such small, inexpensive changes will go a long way toward reducing greenhouse gases in the area.

"If we get folks to just change their light bulbs, we can make great strides," Floreen said.

Other board members spoke in favor of the report.

"Personally, I see this whole issue as a matter of survival," said Greenbelt Mayor Pro Tem Rodney Roberts. "I believe it's a crucial issue, my constituents believe it's a crucial issue. I'm going to support this today."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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