Montgomery County Seal. (Courtesy Photo)

ROCKVILLE—Montgomery County is in the process of creating Climate Planning Process Workgroups to help the county come up with innovative ideas to combat climate change.

To meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the county is launching a planning process tasked with developing a series of strategies.

The county has set goals such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2027 and 100% by 2035.  To meet these goals, the county is looking for volunteers to serve on technical workgroups that will help brainstorm strategies and solutions.

Adriana Hochberg serves as an assistant chief administrative officer and as the county’s climate change coordinator. She said that the idea for the Climate Planning Process Workgroups came from County Executive Marc Elrich.

“He recognized the tremendous expertise on climate and energy issues by members of our community,” she said. “The workgroups will seek to leverage that expertise.”

Hochberg said that climate change cannot be boiled down to just a government problem, but that effective solutions also should be considered from the people the government represents.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the effects of global climate change have already been visible. For instance, glaciers have shrunk, trees flower earlier in the year and ice on rivers and lakes have broken up earlier.

Even a small temperature difference has been linked to massive changes in typical weather patterns and plant growth. In the northeastern portion of the United States, for example, scientists expect to see changes such as more-frequent heavy downpours and changing sea levels.

“Heat waves, heavy downpours and sea level rising pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised,” NASA wrote in their summary of U.S. Regional Effects.

Hochberg said that any viable ideas the work groups come up with will be implemented through the Montgomery County government, and both community and private sector partners.

Back in 2017, the Montgomery County Council passed a resolution designating a climate emergency. Their Emergency Climate Mobilization program was designed to accelerate the work that would reduce the risk of climate change.

“Climate change will cause an increase in water and food shortages, civil unrest, state failure, civil war and terrorism throughout the world with no region or nation being immune to these effects including Montgomery County,” the council wrote in their resolution.

The council also noted in their resolution that the effects of climate change have not been taken seriously enough.

“The federal government, national media and civil society including most climate organizations have drastically underestimated the urgency of the climate and ecological crises, failed to accept that we face an unprecedented global emergency, and relied on failed strategies of gradualism,” the council wrote. “We must together implement a massive emergency global mobilization effort to successfully eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and remove excess carbon from the atmosphere.”

According to Montgomery County, the work groups can expect to review past reports and plans compiled by the county, along with best practices from other areas of the country. They will recommend strategies that are expected to be effective in mitigating the county’s greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the emissions in an equitable manner.

“We don’t have an exact number in mind (for how many people we would like to see participating),” Hochberg said. “We are seeking to form groups that are small enough to enable meaningful discussion and collaboration, while representing multiple facets of expertise on a particular topic.”

There will be three work groups, each focusing on a different contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions: buildings, transportation and clean energy.

The Buildings Technical Workgroup will identify ways to make new and existing buildings more energy efficient. The county estimates that about half of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. To meet environmental goals, the Buildings Technical Workgroup will be tasked with identifying strategies that would encourage energy reduction. Strategies could involve changing building codes, retro-commissioning, benchmarking and energy-performance standards.

The Transportation Technical Workgroup will look for ways to increase the use of electric vehicles and improve the infrastructure that supports electric vehicles. This could include ideas for increasing charging stations around the county in a practical way or brainstorming incentives to encourage more green travel. According to the county, the transportation sector is responsible for 41% of all measured greenhouse gas emissions in the county.

Finally, the Clean Energy Technical Workgroup will be tasked with coming up with ideas to increase green energy use. The group will look for solutions to keep homes comfortable, supplying hot water and electricity in an eco-friendlier manner. By making homes less environmentally taxing, the county can improve its energy efficiency and conservation.

“These three topics are the largest sources of emissions as identified in the county’s community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory. There are other areas that the county plans to involve the public in the future, including climate adaptation,” Hochberg said.

According to Hochberg, each of the Climate Planning Process Workgroups will be co-facilitated by a county government staff member and a member of the community;  the work groups will meet through the end of 2019.

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