Baltimore City Moves Forward with Climate Action Plan Undertaking

Date: February 27, 2012

In response to the goals set forth in its Sustainability Plan, Baltimore City recently announced a recommitment to the Baltimore City Climate Action Plan (CAP).  The move is aimed at achieving the Sustainability Plan’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Baltimore City by 15% by 2015. 

The concept of the CAP was introduced in 2010 and initially slated for adoption by the Mayor and City Council in 2011, but its development has stalled over the last year.  The City has recently articulated its intent to move forward with the plan in 2012.  Over the next nine months, the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability and the Department of General Services’ Energy Office will be working with the Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee (a group comprised of city, state, business and community representatives) to develop the CAP.  The intent is for the plan to be adopted by November 2012.

The stated goal of the CAP is to address greenhouse gas emissions and target emissions reduction through energy efficiency, green infrastructure, transportation, and waste reduction measures.  Baltimore’s CAP will include mitigation measures and a focus on adaptation. The CAP will set both short-term (2020), and long-term (2030) goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Baltimore City as well as responding to anticipated changes in the earth’s climate.

The Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee will evaluate the City government’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as community or city-wide greenhouse gas emissions, and will propose emissions reduction measures for both. According to the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability, the community-wide Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions for Baltimore were 9,611,777 tons in 2010, while the emissions linked to City government were 588,170 tons. The Baltimore City CAP will provide updated energy reduction solutions for all five of the Baltimore Community Sectors (Residential, Industrial, Commercial, Waste, and Transportation).  The emissions data from the 2010 inventory will serve as the baseline to help track future energy reductions. 

According to the Office of Sustainability, the CAP will include a comprehensive list of actions spanning the goals of the Sustainability Plan, a built-in system of accountability, an assessment of the risks to Baltimore associated with the effects of climate change, and strategies to minimize the impact of those risks.  Examples of mitigation measures that the Office of Sustainability has identified for consideration in the development of the CAP are:

  • Encouraging building owners to make energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy consumption;
  • Supporting transportation related improvements that encourage the use of transit, improve the walk-ability of neighborhoods, and reduce the idling of automobiles;
  • Encourage the use of alternative energy sources such as solar or wind;
  • Support system maintenance and improvements to our utilities so that they use less energy.

Up to this point, none of the measures articulated by the Office of Sustainability have contained mandatory language and therefore they appear not to impose requirements on development within the city.

However, in light of the recent scrutiny that Maryland courts have placed on the relationship between development and master plans, particular attention should be paid to the choice of language set forth within the CAP.