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Seattle’s Climate Strategy Pays Off
February 2, 2012

A ship on a harbor
Seattle, Washington

Worried that warming temperatures and glacier melt might endanger Seattle’s water supply, city officials took bold steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The city invested in public transportation to reduce auto travel. It rebuilt neighborhoods to create compact, walkable communities that are less dependent on the automobile. It offered incentives to homeowners and building owners to invest in energy-saving retrofits.

The effort paid off: In 2008 — four years ahead of deadline — Seattle met the Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing its greenhouse emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels set for the United States.

Seattle’s recycling and compost rates are among the highest in the United States. Cruise ships bound for Alaska now plug into the electric grid while at port, rather than idling their engines along the waterfront. According to Greg Nickels, Seattle’s former mayor, who spearheaded the environmental initiatives, cities are “laboratories for solutions.”