The Lehigh Valley is responsible for about 3.7% of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions. With a growing population projected to reach 800,000 by 2050, what does this mean for the valley’s environment?
In the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s recent Outlook presentation, one of the areas covered was a regional greenhouse gas inventory that determines which sectors are most responsible for carbon emissions.
“We recognize that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing profound climate change, the consequences of which pose significant risks to the future health, well-being and prosperity of our communities,” said LVPC Regional Planner Julie Benco. “The first step in tackling climate change requires identifying baseline emission levels and sources and activities that generate emissions in the community.”
That is why the LVPC 2023 is launching the region’s first climate protection plan.
“You’ll be hearing a lot more from us early next year,” Benco said.
Using 2019 as a baseline, the LVPC prepared a regional greenhouse gas inventory with the support of the Local Climate Action Planning Program of the State Ministry of Environmental Protection, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives and the Moravian University.
It turned out that the valley’s gross emissions for 2019 were 9.8 million tons of carbon dioxide.
The LVPC divided the Valley into six sectors – industrial power and natural gas; transportation and mobile sources; residential energy; commercial energy; solid waste; as well as water and sewage.
More than 60% of emissions came from industrial electricity and natural gas (34.5%) and transport and mobile sources (26.6%).
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By comparison, the DEP, in its latest 2018 data, said Pennsylvania was responsible for emitting about 269 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere. Production and consumption of energy accounted for almost 90% of these emissions. That’s an improvement from 328 million tons in 2005.
“Future greenhouse gas emissions in the Lehigh Valley will be influenced by multiple factors, including population, employment, land use patterns, economic activity, energy efficiency and transportation habits,” Benco said. “Despite a fairly sizeable reduction in the transport sector, our projected growth as a region will still result in an increase in overall emissions – unless we do much more to reverse this.”
Benco said the valley’s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase from 9.8 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 to more than 10 million tons in 2049, an increase of 1.5%, or about 0.05% per year.
For its forecast, the LVPC used a “business-as-usual” scenario, meaning no new measures or policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be adopted, while adding the LVPC forecast of 100,000 more people in the valley and 70,000 more jobs .
The projections foresee lower emissions from the transport sector in the coming years due to the increasing use of electric vehicles. However, all other sectors are likely to continue growing, Benco said.
Morning Call reporter Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected].