Carbon Neutral

On June 17, 2013, Seattle City Council adopted Resolution 31447, formally adopting Seattle's 2013 Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan is composed of recommended actions to be taken to meet Seattle's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The Seattle Climate Action Plan is the result of a three year collaborative effort between the City and community to produce a blueprint for a prosperous and climate-friendly city. The Climate Action Plan includes specific short- and long-term actions the City needs to meet its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. For example, the transportation sector accounts for 40% of Seattle's greenhouse gas emissions, but the biggest challenge Seattle faces to reducing emissions in this sector is funding. The plan calls for new funding sources like extending the Bridging the Gap levy and securing local authority for a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) to help improve bus service and reliability, invest in improvements that make it easier and safer to walk or bike and take steps to build out the region's light rail system. The plan also calls for supporting the adoption of low carbon vehicles and fuels. In the building energy section, the Plan calls for accelerating Seattle's already strong conservation work by enhancing the tracking of utility use, providing better energy performance information to building owners and users, and generally help to improve the public's understanding and manage their energy consumption. Additionally, the Plan calls for getting the right mix of policies and incentives to spur retrofitting in Seattle's housing stock and commercial buildings.

In 2011, the City Council passed Resolution 31312 putting the City on a path toward reducing Seattle's net green house gas emissions level to zero by 2050. The resolution sets preliminary emissions targets for Seattle in three sectors: transportation, building energy and waste. The emissions targets Seattle set are some of the most aggressive targets among cities in the world.



2020 Targets

2030 Targets


14% reduction in VMT

20% reduction in VMT

Building energy

8% reduction in energy use

20% reduction in energy use


Increase waste diversion rate to 69%

Increase waste diversion above 70%

Total GHG emission reduction

30% reduction in GHG

58% reduction in GHG

*Reductions are a percentage of 2008 baseline figures; VMT stands for vehicle miles travelled; GHG stands for greenhouse gas.

In early 2010, City Council established carbon neutrality as one of its sixteen Council priorities and went about gathering community input. The Office of Sustainability and Environment also commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute to conduct in-depth technical analysis to identify emissions reduction strategies in transportation, building energy and waste that Seattle could take to get to carbon neutrality.

This 2050 commitment builds on Seattle's history of environmental leadership including efforts in 2000 to create the first carbon neutral electric utility, and the 2005 effort to get cities across the nation to commit to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets for greenhouse gas reduction and Seattle's Climate Action Plan.

In 2012, Seattle will update the Climate Action Plan to provide a road map for the City to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Public dialogue and engaging the community about carbon neutrality

In the fall of 2010, work groups comprised of community members from across the city presented their recommendations for carbon neutral policies across eight sectors: transportation, land use, energy, food, zero waste, green careers, neighborhoods and youth.  The Council is working to implement some of these ideas and will continue to work with these community members during the update of the Climate Action Plan.

The workgroups recommendations were all put together in the following white papers:

Land Use









This video was made to help explain what “carbon neutral” is really all about:

Seattle is Going Carbon Neutral from Race to Zero City on Vimeo.

Developing an analytic framework

In 2011, the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) worked with Stockholm Environment Institute and the Council to examine the science of achieving carbon neutrality. Their analysis includes an update of Seattle's greenhouse gas inventory, an exploration of several reduction scenarios and the development of a strategic framework for action planning. 

An example of efforts to reduce energy usage

In 2010, the City was awarded a $20 million grant from the US Department of Energy's "Retrofit Ramp Up" program, a competitive grant program funded through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG). The Office of Sustainability and Environment will implement this grant, which will bring energy efficient retrofits to existing buildings in Seattle most culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods, while creating 2,000 green jobs.

Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhood Committee Special Meeting 9/14/2010
Presentations from community work groups

Regional Development and Sustainability Committee Special Meeting 5/27/2010
Introduction of Van Jones, Green Jobs and Local Climate