Inventory sets baseline for Somerville’s carbon neutrality goals.

SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville took an important step forward this week in its efforts to reduce the entire Somerville community’s contribution to climate change. The City released its Green House Gas Inventory (the Inventory), which provides a baseline of total carbon emissions within City limits both by municipal entities as well as residents and visitors. The Inventory will be used to track progress on the City’s Net Zero 2050 goal to become carbon neutral by mid-century. The results of the Inventory identify emission sources and provide data helpful for setting measurable short-term carbon reduction goals. Somerville’s Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) oversaw the Inventory as part of the SustainaVille Initiative.

“The Greenhouse Gas Inventory is a critical step in our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by giving us a clear diagnosis of the issues we need to tackle over the next several years,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Without action, our emissions will continue to rise, so we will continue to measure our municipal operations and community emissions on a regular basis to track our progress toward reaching our 2050 goals. Having this vital information opens the door for all of us, as a community, to get to work finding the best strategies for cutting our emissions and making real, measurable progress in reducing our contribution to climate change.”

The City developed two sets of emissions inventories: The community inventory represents total emissions from activities occurring within City limits, such as vehicle trips, home and business energy use, and solid waste generation. The local government operations inventory illustrates emissions generated as a direct result of City government actions, such as energy consumption in schools, and emissions from the City’s vehicle fleet).

Somerville Emissions By the Numbers: 609,565 metric tons

For the 2014 baseline year measured by the Inventory, Somerville’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions were 609,565 metric tons, over two-thirds of which come from building needs like electricity, heating and cooling. Put another way, a forest 185 times the size of Somerville would be required in order to sequester all of our carbon emissions for one year. Somerville’s per capita emissions, however, remain below both the state and national average. Some other key findings from the Inventory include:


• In the residential sector, 76% of emissions come from natural gas and heating oil, the fuels we use to heat our homes in the winter.

• Transportation accounts for about one-third of emissions. Personal vehicles account for 98% of transportation emissions, and transit is just 2%.

• In Somerville’s municipal operations, 85% of emissions come from buildings, with 65% coming from school buildings.

“To understand how we can reduce climate change-causing emissions, we need to know how much we’re emitting and where our emissions are coming from. You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” said Oliver Sellers-Garcia, Director of OSE. “The City and members of our community are eager to roll up their sleeves and start making changes, and, with this study, we have a better idea of where to begin.”  

What the City’s doing

The City has already made marked progress toward its 2050 goals. With the help of funding from the state’s Green Communities program, there is improved efficiency in Somerville school buildings. In 2015, the City added four electric vehicles to its fleet, and installed three electric vehicle charging stations throughout the City for residents and visitors to use free of charge. In 2016, all City streetlights will be converted to energy efficient LEDs, reducing approximately 600 metric tons of GHG emissions per year.


What you can do:

• Make your home as energy efficient as possible. Get a free home energy assessment through the Somerville Energy Efficiency Now program, and take advantage of rebates for energy efficiency upgrades.  

• Consider renewable energy for your home. (Somerville will launch “Solarize Somerville” in 2016! Stay tuned for the roll out of the program!)

• Consider switching to alternative transportation modes a few days each week, like the T or a bike (Hubway!).

• Sign up for notifications from SustainaVille, the City’s climate change initiative.

• Somerville Climate Action will be hosting a screening of the film “This Changes Everything” on February 28, 2016, at 5 p.m. at the Armory, located at 191 Highland Ave. City staff have been invited to share more information on the inventory and the next steps in the City’s climate change planning.


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