Greenhouse Gas Inventories Guide Salem’s Climate Action Plan

Posted on January 9, 2021

City of Salem – 01/08/21 4:30 PM

Salem, Ore. — As part of its ongoing Climate Action Plan effort, Salem recently completed a consumption-based greenhouse gas inventory.  Inventories provide a  baseline of our greenhouse gas emissions and offer important details about the sources of Salem’s greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding our baseline and consumption habits can help us meet our goals to reduce our carbon footprint.

The new Salem consumption-based greenhouse gas inventory is complementary to the 2019 sector-based inventory. This new report will help us understand how our personal choices and community contribute to global climate change.

Consumption-Based Inventory Results

Approximately 4.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are produced through consumption-based emissions while sector-based emissions produce approximately 1.6 million metric tons.

A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon and drives around 11,500 miles per year. So 4.2 million metric tons is the equivalent of 913,043 cars driving for a year, and 1.6 million metric tons is the equivalent of 347,842 driving for a year. Learn more

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Snapshot

  • Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions for our community.
  • Vehicles, including production, supply chain, use, and disposal are the number one  source of consumption–based emissions for Salem.
  • The purchase, consumption, production, transport, and disposal of food and beverages is the second-largest source of consumption-based emissions.
  • Salem’s trees absorb and store enough emissions annually to account for a roughly 1 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Understanding Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories.  Greenhouse gas emissions are produced as we go about our everyday activities such as driving a vehicle, heating a home, or cooking with natural gas.  We also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions indirectly when we purchase goods or food manufactured in other places and transported to Salem.  All these emissions come from human activities that contribute to climate change.  The City has completed two types of inventories to gives us different views of the greenhouse gas emission picture.

  • Sector-based inventory: Emissions produced in Salem from areas, such as transportation, and residential, commercial, and industrial building and energy sources, including electricity produced elsewhere but used in the community.  The sector-based inventory is the traditional method for setting a goal and tracking emissions within a geographical area, such as Salem City limits, and is similar to the methods many other cities and countries use.  The sector-based methods provide a better representation of locally produced emissions that can be influenced by direct action from the local government.

Results: In 2016, the City of Salem’s residents, businesses, employees, and visitors produced over 1.5 million metric tons. This equates to roughly 9.59 metric tons of CO2e per capita. Of the six emissions source categories surveyed, mobile emissions made up over half (53 percent) of the CO2e produced. Electricity generation comprised more than one quarter of all emissions, while residential and commercial fuel combustion was the third largest contributor at 16 percent.

  • Consumption-based inventory: Emissions produced around the world due to Salem residents’ consumption of goods and services, including emissions associated with production, transportation, supply chain, use, and disposal of those products.  The consumption-based inventory is a less common method and is increasingly being used by local governments to better understand how the choices and behaviors of individuals can impact climate change.

Results: In 2016, approximately 4.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are produced through consumption-based emissions while sector-based emissions produce approximately 1.6 million metric tons.

What Happens Next?

  • Share your ideas for change.  Starting today, you can share your ideas for how we can work together to reduce and mitigate the effects of climate change.  Meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals will require a broad range of actions to be carried out by the City, residents, businesses, and other organizations.  This could include strategies like increasing renewable energy, reducing emissions from transportation, increasing energy efficiency, reducing food waste.
  • Follow the Climate Action Plan process.  You can register to get notices of upcoming events and watch the next Task Force workshop on January 13, 2021.  At their next meeting, the Task Force will consider the consumption-based inventory findings and begin discussing strategies.

What is the Climate Action Plan?
The City is developing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.  The Climate Action Plan will outline strategies and actions Salem can take to reduce emissions and create a thriving, resilient community for decades to come. The sector- and consumption-based greenhouse gas inventories will help us understand the cost/benefit and the emissions reduction potential of select strategies and will help create a dashboard that can be used to track progress on goals.

For more on what’s been accomplished so far, including a comprehensive Climate Actions Audit to identify completed actions, ongoing practices, and adopted plans that address climate change, check out our website.

Note: Emissions from Salem’s consumption-based inventory cannot be directly added to the sector-based inventory because some consumption occurs within the Salem city limits.  This would create a double-counting error.


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