Project Update: Tahoe Basin Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Meredith Anderson

Meredith Anderson

Climate & Energy Planning Technician

Sherry Hao

Sherry Hao

Energy Services Program Director

As part of our commitment to advancing climate action and energy resilience in the Sierra, Sierra Business Council provides greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventories to local jurisdictions in the region. We recently completed a GHG inventory update for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) that accounted for emissions in the Tahoe Basin. 

In order to aid jurisdictions in the climate planning process, GHG emissions inventories are created to take stock of all emissions from the built environment attributed to a certain town, city, or region. The built environment refers to surroundings (structures, features, and facilities) created for humans, by humans, and to be used for human activities. 

Usually, community-wide inventories are broken down by energy, transportation, solid waste, and water and wastewater. The energy sector includes emissions associated with electricity, natural gas, and any other fuels used for heating or cooling; transportation includes emissions from on-road and off-road vehicles, in addition to any air travel or boating activity; solid waste includes emissions coming from the transportation necessary to haul waste to a landfill and the emissions from the landfill itself, relative to the tons of waste being disposed there; and water and wastewater includes any emissions from water supply or wastewater treatment processes. 

Using this valuable information, jurisdictions are then able to create climate action plans and next step strategies unique to the types of emissions contributing to their carbon footprint that can help them meet local or state climate goals and targets. Earlier this year, SBC and our partners at Spatial Informatics Group (SIG), were brought in as consultants to provide a Lake Tahoe Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update for TRPA. 

TRPA, the bi-state agency governing the Tahoe Basin, established climate action as a priority for the agency. In 2014, the TRPA developed the Lake Tahoe Sustainable Communities Program which set GHG emission reduction goals for the region. This called for a 15% reduction from the baseline (an average of emissions from the 2005 and 2010 GHG inventories) by 2020, a 49% reduction by 2035, and a goal of net-zero emissions by 2045. In order to reach these GHG targets, TRPA has produced GHG inventories at regular intervals to assess progress. In 2020, they decided to update their previous GHG inventory (from the years 2005 and 2010) and develop an inventory for the years 2015 and 2018.

Key findings from the report are as follows: 

From 2005 to 2018, GHG emissions from the built environment in the Tahoe Basin decreased by 38.7%, however emissions from 2015 to 2018 increased by 4%, mostly due to the transportation sector. Over the full inventory period, natural gas became the top source of GHG emissions in the Tahoe Basin as a result of older, inefficient homes and buildings. Regardless, the Tahoe region substantially surpassed the 2020 target of 15% GHG emission reduction from the 2005 and 2010 GHG emissions values.

As part of their GHG inventory process, TRPA has included a carbon sequestration analysis, which calculates the carbon stock potential within the natural lands of the Tahoe Basin. Sierra Business Council worked with Spatial Informatics Group and partners from the Forest Carbon Technical Advisory Committee to develop a carbon sequestration inventory methodology. The Tahoe Basin’s forests and meadows, specifically those that are healthy, are a major contributor to the basin’s carbon sequestration potential, yielding a natural climate solution. Overall built environment emissions were then compared to this carbon sequestration potential in a carbon accounting balance.

In the coming years, TRPA, along with its partners, will be exploring the development of new climate actions that address the increasing number of GHG emissions in the Tahoe Basin, advocate for sustainable redevelopment that replaces aging, inefficient infrastructure that remains on sensitive stream and meadow areas, and prioritize important forest and meadow restoration projects.

Lake Tahoe Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update

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