Analysis of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory shows that there is a path forward to meeting our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, but only if we work in sync with our partners.
The county has a role to play in:
As a large organization, a major consumer of energy, and an energy generator, Hennepin County can have a significant impact through efforts to reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency in buildings.
The county is well situated to lead by example in reducing energy use and associated emissions, as well as influencing energy planning, policies and regulations to lessen the impact on the environment, improve communities, and protect public health.
Aspects of reducing emissions and meeting greenhouse goals with buildings and energy use are:
Hennepin County plans, funds, builds, and manages a transportation network of roadways, bikeways, and sidewalks. Long-term partnerships have produced an increasingly dense network of transit and transportation options that include light rail transit, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, bikeways, and pedestrian walkways.
As the first Minnesota county to adopt a Complete Streets policy, Hennepin County recognizes the importance of addressing the needs of transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians along with the needs of motorists.
Transportation emissions have declined slightly in the past decade despite an increase in the number of miles driven due to increased transit options, higher fuel economy standards, and intelligent traffic systems that reduces congestion. But Minnesota’s transportation planners have determined that we will not be able to achieve our state greenhouse gas emission reduction goals without reducing vehicle miles traveled.
Managing the land and infrastructure in the county's transportation network creates opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, sequester carbon, manage increased precipitation, and reduce the impact of the urban heat island effect. As our transportation system evolves, reducing air pollutants from fossil fuel combustion will not only help meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, but also reduces disparities in traffic-related health impacts.
Creating new products requires energy – to harvest raw material, process it, manufacture it, transport it, and sometimes, to use it. When looking at emissions to show how they are tied to the production of materials and goods, producing and transporting goods is associated with 45% of global emissions.
This underscores the importance of sustainable purchasing. Significant opportunities to reduce emissions with waste and materials include:
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is a critical part of achieving net zero carbon emissions since it involves “balancing” a certain measured amount of carbon released with an amount of carbon offsets.
Protecting, restoring, and managing natural ecosystems, planting trees and plants, and leveraging the ability of soil to store carbon are among the most effective ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Each decision that Hennepin County makes around the use and management of properties it owns and manages presents an opportunity to sequester carbon. In addition, through the county’s role as the Soil and Water Conservation District, there is tremendous opportunity to sequester carbon on private property.
Researchers are also working to improve technologies that capture the carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels before it is released to the atmosphere. Carbon capture technology is relatively expensive compared to carbon sequestration through biological processes, but this is a field of research to monitor for developments.